Concert Review: Wu-Tang Clan at Bingemans On The Grand in Kitchener, ON

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The legendary Wu-Tang Clan has reunited once again for their 25th Anniversary Tour, celebrating the 25 years since they released one of Hip-Hop’s most iconic masterpieces, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). It’s been 25 years of consistent musical output from one of Hip-Hop’s greatest groups, as not one year has gone by since where they haven’t released a new album either from one of the ten members as solo artists, or as a collective. While they’ve had varying levels of fame over the years, their influence remains strong, as they’ve been able to headline world-class Hip-Hop festivals around the world on this tour, with all nine living members dedicated to this celebration of Hip-Hop excellence.

For the sole stop in Ontario, Canada on this tour, Wu-Tang would be heading to Bingemans On The Grand in Kitchener, as opposed to the obvious big-city choice of Toronto. Being an hour and a half drive outside of both Toronto and London, it meant only the most dedicated fans from those cities would be making the trek to see the Clan. The venue itself was an open field just off of the Grand River, located next to a water park and the largest Boston Pizza location in Ontario.

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We showed up shortly after the gates opened and got to explore the festival grounds before the show got started. There was already a long line to check out the merch booth, which featured customized shirts and hats incorporating the Toronto skyline into the iconic Wu-Tang logo, as well as merch for supporting artist Robbie G, who co-booked this show through his R-Evolution Media Studio company (along with Cabin Media Entertainment). The line to buy merch would stay long for most of the early evening, but whether or not fans bought the customized Toronto Wu-merch, there was plenty of Wu-Tang clothing already being worn; it’s a sight to see so many dedicated fans all rocking similar merch. Some fans dug deep with Czarface, GZA, Method Man or Ghostface gear, but it was a rarity to see someone without some sort of Wu-Tang clothing.

We found the beer carts served nothing but local beer from the Waterloo Brewing Company, which we learned was Ontario’s first craft brewer and that they were located just across the street. After trying their delicious IPA and Amber Ale, I found this was much more preferred to the basic Budweisers you find at most Toronto concerts. We also found that the food trucks and port-o-potty washrooms were at the far back end of the field, outside the reach of the stage’s sound system. For non-VIPs, getting food, drink or using the washroom meant walking all the way back up the hill and potentially losing your spot up front. I would later use my media pass to get into the VIP washrooms near the stage and avoid walking back all this way.

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Guelph MC Robbie G eventually came out to get the show started, playing both host and opening artist. He set things off by bringing out the 2015 DMC World DJ Champion, DJ Vekked. Vekked took over the stage, masterfully cutting up some vocal samples, and blew minds by bringing out a turntable-guitar combo I had never seen before. Robbie G then returned and started performing his own songs, getting the crowd to bob their heads to the Boom Bap cut, “Rope-A-Dope.”

Always involved in growing the Canadian music scene, Robbie G mentioned the upcoming Merkules tour he’ll be involved in while performing their collaboration together, “Nothin’ To Do With Me.” He then brought out special guest Mansuki, and together they performed the single off of Robbie G’s latest Fire album, “Incredible.” To close things out, DJ Vekked skillfully blended together a medley of Wu-Tang beats for Robbie G to freestyle off the top to, and of course he killed it. This may very well be the biggest concert Robbie G has ever booked, and he definitely made sure to showcase his skills as an MC to the Wu-Tang fans.

Next up would be an artist I hadn’t seen perform in a long time, but was there for Wu-Tang’s 20th Anniversary show at Toronto’s Kool Haus back in 2013, Peter Jackson. While I wasn’t familiar with the songs, I could tell Peter Jackson’s style has evolved, adding a bit of a Drake influence to his sound. Midway through his set, he brought out another special guest who was also at that 2013 show in Toronto, Gangis Khan a.k.a. Camoflauge. I hadn’t seen Camo perform in years either, but the Scarborough veteran got a good reaction from the crowd with his verses. Unlike previous Wu-Tang shows, the wait to see the headliners hit the stage wouldn’t be too long, as DJ Mathematics got set up and the show got started right around 10pm.

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The way Wu-Tang Clan starts their shows is always interesting. I’ve seen them jump right into the 36 Chambers album, coming out one at a time to “Bring Da Ruckus,” and most recently I’ve seen them all rush the stage at once and start with “Triumph.” This time would be a lot more organized and structured; The Abbot RZA came out holding a bottle of champagne, and he’d introduce his Wu-Tang brethren one at a time. He first brought out Inspectah Deck, and played hypeman as Deck rapped his verse from “Lesson Learn’d” off of Wu-Tang’s most recent compilation album, The Saga ContinuesRZA then introduced U-God, who came out and performed his 1999 solo track from the PlayStation video game Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style, “Rumble.” Next to come out would be Masta Killa performing “One Blood Under W,” followed by Cappadonna with his verse from “Winter Warz,” DJ Mathematics lacing Capp with a medley of beats to flow over.

With half the Clan now on stage, they would bring out the rest of the members by beginning to perform the entire Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) album in track listing order. Ghostface Killah and Raekwon came out to kick off “Bring Da Ruckus,” and GZA would come out to kill the last verse of the opening song. The structure seemed so perfect, as fans who know the beloved album inside out knew that next up would be “Shame On A Nigga,” which would bring out the group’s biggest star Method Man on the second verse. The group performed the track, getting the crowd to help cover the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s verse (RIP), but Method Man was nowhere to be seen. The disappointment hit, but the crowd continued to passionately rap along to the track, even doing the second ODB verse accapella.

Continuing on with the track list, next up would of course be GZA’s solo track, “Clan In Da Front.” RZA got the crowd to do the “Wu-Tang Killa Bees, we on a swarm!” chant, and GZA stepped up and slayed his verses. They then got into “7th Chamber,” with the crowd helping the Clan cover Method Man and ODB’s verses, and Raekwon, Inspectah Deck, Ghostface Killah, RZA and GZA each slaying their own. Ghostface paused the show to get the crowd to light up their cell phones for the next track, as they then mellowed out into “Can It Be All So Simple.” RZA then got the crowd to make noise and get hyped again as they got into the more up-tempo “Mystery of Chessboxin’.” Once again, the crowd helped cover ODB’s verse, and at the end of it, RZA popped and sprayed a bottle of champagne as Masta Killa hit the crowd with his iconic closing verse.

The crowd would stay hyped as they performed “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing Ta F Wit,” but it wasn’t as hyped as it could’ve been with everyone knowing that Method Man wasn’t there to perform his verse. RZA took this time to pause the show and address the elephant in the room, explaining that Method Man got stuck back in Hollywood doing extra filming for the HBO show, The Deuce. He then brought out actor Bokeem Woodbine to say hello to the crowd; the acclaimed actor has appeared in several Wu-Tang music videos over the years, and most recently co-starred in the Netflix drama about the investigation of Biggie & 2Pac’s murders, Unsolved. Despite Method Man’s absence, the crowd still showed a lot of love as the Clan covered Meth’s self-titled solo track on the 36 Chambers album.

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Bokeem Woodbine

Now somewhat out of track listing order for the classic album, Wu-Tang continued on into “C.R.E.A.M.” and “Tearz,” randomly throwing in “Gravel Pit” between the two songs. This nearly put them through the entire album, and they teased the crowd knowing they forgot to perform their very first single: “Protect Ya Neck.” While many times before they’ve cut the song off after U-God’s verse, this time they rapped the entire thing, getting the crowd to help cover Method Man and ODB, and the energy building with each member getting to spit.

With all the songs on 36 Chambers having been performed, the Clan moved on to their later songs, pulling out a deep album cut off of Ghostface Killah’s Ironman, with him, Cappadonna and Raekwon rocking their verses from “Fish.” The Clan then took it to 1997, performing the Wu-Tang Forever joint “Reunited” before getting into their Ol’ Dirty Bastard tribute. RZA would mention actor Seth Rogan being one of his favourite Canadians, and that Seth’s favourite Wu-Tang song was the one they performed next, “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” by ODB. They also covered “Got Your Money” as part of the tribute to the fallen Wu-Tang member, and would next close out the show with a bang.

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Of course with any Wu-Tang concert, they have to perform one of the only songs that feature all ten members on the same song: “Triumph.” With Method Man being absent, Ghostface Killah used the opportunity to do something he often does at his solo concerts: he picked one fan out of the crowd to rap Method Man’s verse, and another fan to cover his own verse, and encouraged the crowd to cheer or boo the two fans based on their ability to rap the right lyrics (I have seen fans get booed off stage before). RZA brought out one of Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s sons to cover his dad’s intro, and Inspectah Deck set it off with that iconic opening verse. Both the fans covering Method Man and Ghostface Killah’s verses nailed their parts in the song, and the crowd erupted for them!

With the venue having a strict curfew, RZA got the crowd to say peace before Wu-Tang left the stage; some of the crowd stayed and chanted for an encore but to no avail. It felt like a really short show compared to previous Wu-Tang concerts I’ve been to, but this was one of Wu-Tang’s most organized and well-structured performances I’ve seen them do. Rather than cut songs off midway to move on to other songs and cover more ground, Wu-Tang performed every verse to every song they picked out. This is also the closest I’ve seen them stick to the album format of performing the entire 36 Chambers album front to back. It was surprising to see them not do anything off of GZA’s Liquid Swords album or Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, two of Wu-Tang’s best solo projects, but what we got was a concise, well-executed performance of their first classic.

While Ontario, Canada has yet to have a Wu-Tang Clan concert where all nine living members show up, this is the closest we’ve gotten yet, and it was definitely worth the drive to Kitchener. Despite some fans being upset with the venue being changed from an indoor warehouse to a larger outdoor field, Wu-Tang put on an epic performance, and the way they structured their setlist shows that they’re getting better with age. Here’s to another 25 years of Wu-Tang!

 

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