Talk about tough decisions. On this night in Toronto, 90’s Hip-Hop heads had two dope options for live shows. There was the much hyped Bad Boy Records Reunion Tour hitting the Air Canada Centre, featuring Diddy/Puff Daddy, Mase, Lil Kim, Faith Evans, The LOX, 112, Total and Carl Thomas, or there was Wu-Tang’s RZA and Interpol’s Paul Banks as the new group Banks & Steelz hitting the Mod Club. I chose to roll with Banks & Steelz, because small club shows are almost always more personal and interactive than large stadium shows, the group has new material that hasn’t been performed before, and I’m just a bigger fan of RZA and Wu-Tang than anything Bad Boy Records has done without the late Notorious B.I.G.
Not even a month old, the new Banks & Steelz album Anything But Words has been in heavy rotation. I know nothing about Paul Banks’ band Interpol, but hearing him and RZA blend rock and rap so seamlessly has made this one of my favourite albums of 2016. It’s simple, groovy, and RZA sounds like he’s genuinely having fun rather than forcing some decisions in an attempt to live up to the Wu-Tang legacy. Speaking of which, the last time RZA was in town was almost exactly one year ago for Wu-Tang Clan’s set at the 2015 Riot Fest. I’ve only seen him perform at large festivals, and so this would be my first time seeing him perform in a small nightclub.
I got to the Mod Club about an hour and a half after doors had opened, and it was surprisingly full for a Tuesday night. There was however no action on stage, as there were no opening acts and the sound crew was still getting all the equipment set up. The Mod Club is a small, relaxing setting that’s good for mingling though. Just over two hours after doors had opened, it was show time.
Along with their drummer, Paul Banks came out with his guitar and RZA got behind the keyboard (sidenote: RZA was rocking a Yankees hat, who had just finished beating our Blue Jays 6-7). It was my first time seeing RZA perform with an actual instrument on stage. They started the show with the last song on the album, “Point of View,” with RZA replacing verses by Method Man & Masta Killa with a freestyle of his own, hyping up the crowd and introducing the band. They then moved on to some high energy tracks off the album with “Ana Electronic” and “Speedway Sonora.” RZA then stepped out from behind the keyboard to get right up into the crowd, where he would pop and spray a bottle of champagne, getting everyone hype for “Sword in the Stone.”
The crowd showed some energy, waving their hands with RZA during the hook and bobbing along as he rapped his verse on the hype track. Things got a little groovy next, with the bassline in “Conceal” and the single “Love And War” getting the ladies in the crowd to dance. They performed “Wild Season,” describing it as capturing that period in your life RZA must have been in when he made “Drink, Smoke + Fuck” (when that’s all you want to do). They then described the next song as the very first song they came up with when they first started jamming together, before they knew they’d even make an album. This turned out to be the relationship-themed “Can’t Hardly Feel.”
Next was “One By One,” which contained Paul’s favourite verse by RZA, and so RZA rapped it a second time accapella after they finished the song. Before getting to the final song (and the most obvious one they had yet to perform), RZA pulled out an ice cold bottle of Grey Goose and started pouring shots for fans in the front row, which of course hinted at the lyric “pass me a cup full of Goose/ in the club with the juice” in the lead single “Giant.” They then performed the track to close out the show, and the crowd got as hyped as they had been all night. The song left the building with so much energy that we of course chanted for an encore; they came back out to mellow us out with the title track off the album.
This was an overall fun but short show. The entire Anything But Words album clocks in at just under an hour, and Banks & Steelz basically performed eleven out of the twelve tracks on it. It would have been cool to see them incorporate songs from their respective groups, Interpol and Wu-Tang Clan, but I suppose they haven’t had time to work on anything besides the material from the new album. RZA keeps a busy schedule between his film career, producing, and uniting with the Clan for festival shows, and so it’s great to be able to see him on tour performing something completely fresh. It’s also really cool seeing RZA perform using a live instrument (as opposed to being strictly on the mic), and actually pulling off some harmonies singing with Paul Banks.
There’s no telling when we’ll next be able to see Banks & Steelz together again after this tour, and so I definitely recommend checking them out if they come to your city. This could potentially be just a one-off project, but it is a fun one to witness.
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