Only a year after Ghostface Killah tore down the Kool Haus with five other Wu-Tang Clan members, he has returned to Toronto for a solo show. Ghostface is the one artist I’ve seen the most in concert, as I’ve seen him perform in all kinds of settings over the past five years. I’ve seen the entire Wu-Tang Clan in New York, and a partial Wu-Tang roster perform in Toronto. I’ve seen Ghostface perform with Raekwon & Cappadonna in New York, as well as shows in Toronto with Raekwon and Sheek Louch. I’ve seen him perform indoors, outdoors, for energetic crowds, for marginally dull crowds, with good sound systems and with technical difficulties. This would however be the first time I’d see him perform truly solo, without any other Wu-Tang or Wu-Block members on stage with him (at least that’s what it was advertised as 😉 ).
The Wu-Tang Clan is a special group in that having fewer members on stage doesn’t take away from the show. In this case, Ghostface performing solo means that there’s more room for him to perform songs from any of his ten (soon to be eleven) solo albums, rather than relying on partial Wu-Tang Clan songs. Between his solo work and his collaborations with the Clan and other artists, Ghostface Killah’s catalogue is extensive enough for him to alter his live set list every time he performs. Every show I’ve seen him perform has been different, and there was no telling what was in store for this solo show at Rockpile East. Since the last time I saw him perform, he released a collaborative album with Adrian Younge in 2013 called Twelve Reasons To Die. Over the next two weeks after this show, Ghostface will release a new album with the Wu-Tang Clan called A Better Tomorrow, followed by another solo album called 36 Seasons. When I got to the venue, I mostly chilled by the bar while the opening acts got the stage warmed up for Ghostface (apologies for not getting any pictures). There were some dope crews, but I think Gene One (an opener at The Cookout Festival and the Rakim show this year) was the big winner of the night. He had two dope sets with different groups, including Harvey Dentist, and got to rock the stage again with Ghostface later on. Throughout the night a couple fights broke out involving some of the artists that were previously on stage, but security was able to do their job. Stacee Brizzle also did a good job hosting as usual, getting the crowd involved with pictures. She made a couple key announcements: this would be the last hip-hop show at Rockpile East due to a change in location (fact), and Cappadonna may have made the trip to Toronto with Ghostface (rumour at this point).
With the openers rocking the stage for most of the night, Ghostface finally got on stage at around 1am, wearing an airbrushed Ol’ Dirty Bastard shirt. He came out to “Criminology” off Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx album, followed by “One” off his own Supreme Clientele album. Next, a short sample played while Ghostface set up his mic stand, and then the sample turned into the Cuban Linx hit “Ice Cream”. The rumours proved to be true, as Cappadonna surprised everyone by coming out for the second verse! He would rock the stage with Ghostface for the rest of the night. Ghost and Cap went through a medley of their hits, although being so close to the speakers made it hard to tell which beats were playing. I recognized tracks like Ghostface’s “Be Easy”, “Wildflower” and “Fish”, and Cappadonna also performed his song “Run” (Ghost didn’t do his version though). The medley of hits continued as Ghost got the crowd jumping for “4th Chamber” off Gza’s Liquid Swords album, followed by “New Wu” off Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Pt. II”. Ghost also performed his Supreme Clientele hit “Mighty Healthy” and Cappadonna performed “97 Mentality” off The Pillage.
Next, Ghostface and Cappadonna got into a Wu-Tang Clan segment. They played the Gladys Knight song that was sampled to make “Can It Be All So Simple”, before Ghostface performed the song by rapping Raekwon’s verse. Next, he performed his verse from “Tearz”, and then they got a couple fans to join them on stage to help perform “Protect Ya Neck”. Unlike the last time I saw this routine, the first fan nailed Method Man’s verse, and Gene One handled Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s verse pretty well. This of course led to an ODB tribute, as they played “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” and “Got Your Money”. A female fan jumped on stage and started dancing, but security made her join the crowd again.
Ghostface barely rapped for the rest of the show. He brought out another local group and let them perform a couple songs. Afterwards, he let Cappadonna and the crowd help sing along to hits by other Wu-Tang Clan members, including Raekwon’s “Incarcerated Scarfaces” and Rza & Inspectah Deck’s verses from “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthin’ Ta F’ Wit”. Ghost did a couple more of his own songs like “Black Jesus” and “Cherchez La Ghost” (the same girl jumped on stage to dance and got kicked off again by security), but Cappadonna shined the most during this part of the show.
Cappadonna performed his legendary verse from “Winter Warz”, with the beat switching from the original song to Notorious B.I.G.’s “Who Shot Ya”. Next, Ghost said they had to end the show soon and wanted to take requests. The DJ teased the crowd by playing “2getha Baby” off Ghostface’s 2010 album Apollo Kids, his collaboration with Nate Dogg, “Ooh Wee”, and a Wu-Tang classic with “Gravel Pit”, but Ghost didn’t rap any of his verses. Instead, they played Triumph, and Cappadonna jumped into the crowd and rapped every verse by every Wu-Tang member among the people, letting Ghostface rap his own verse of course. Before ending the show with the usual peace chant, Ghostface allowed one of the opening acts (Born Trouble) to return to the stage and rap Nas’ verse on “Verbal Intercourse”. Although Ghost didn’t follow up with his own verse on the song, it was a special moment as the fan told Ghost how much his music has impacted everyone in that room. Overall, it was another classic Wu-Tang type of night. Ghostface didn’t touch any of his new music and mostly stuck to the classics. While he played a lot of hits by the Wu-Tang Clan and its other members, songs from his own solo discography were limited to his three biggest albums: Ironman, Supreme Clientele, and Fishscale. I personally would’ve liked to see him touch on some of his other albums, but you can never complain about getting the all-time classics. It was also great seeing Cappadonna make it into Canada, as he helped keep the party rocking with freestyle acapella verses between songs.
Rockpile East was the smallest venue I’ve seen Ghostface perform in, but he rocked the house just like any other show. The crowd was great, knowing all the chants to go with the songs and bringing a good amount of energy. Ghostface has proven to be one of hip-hop’s greatest showmen, performing well in any situation and always finding new ways to surprise his fans. This was a great show to close the venue with, at least for the hip-hop crowd. Rockpile East has hosted some great nights with this concert, as well as shows by Redman and Tech N9ne, but a relocation closer to the downtown core is definitely a good thing.
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