Just two months after performing in Kitchener on what was to be the only stop in Ontario for their 25th Anniversary Tour, The Wu-Tang Clan have returned, this time performing in Toronto itself. Their return comes after the roster wasn’t complete for the Kitchener show, as Method Man had to catch a last-minute flight back to L.A. to film a TV show. To make it up to the fans, this show at Rebel Nightclub would be free, with cannabis company Hexo footing the bill. Not only would it be a shot at redemption after never having the full group on stage for their previous shows in Toronto, but it would also give an opportunity to fans who couldn’t afford tickets close to $100 at previous concerts.
Hexo has been earning cool points with consumers through their Never Jaded marketing campaign, putting together free events like this all across Canada, including bringing Wu-Tang’s own RZA to Toronto last month for a live score of the 1978 film The 36th Chamber of Shaolin. This event would be a risk for them, as they could either become the first company to successfully book a Wu-Tang concert in Ontario with a complete roster, or deal with the backlash of the fans if the entire group didn’t show up. Anticipation for this concert was high, as thousands of fans registered to RSVP through NeverJaded.ca, but only about 3,000 got invited to attend.
It was a long lineup down Polson Street to get into the club, but Rebel’s staff worked to get everyone inside quickly. DJ Ritz warmed up the crowd by playing several Hip-Hop classics as fans made their way inside. Some fans hit up the Wu-Tang merch booth to get shirts with either Canada’s maple leaf or a cannabis leaf incorporated into the iconic W logo, while many lined up for the Hexo merch booth, which had free gear for everyone. Fans who waited in the Hexo line got to walk away with free socks, a shirt, a hat, money clips and more with the Hexo brand on them.
We took our time to mingle before eventually, Toronto’s own Peter Jackson hit the stage as the opening act. Peter Jackson has been involved in booking several Wu-Tang shows in Toronto over the years, including bringing six out of the nine members to The Kool Haus back in 2013, and their most recent show in Kitchener where eight members showed up. He was proud to announce that all nine Wu-Tang members would be performing tonight, although for seasoned concert heads we’d have to see it to believe it. Jackson ran through a quick five-song setlist to put a little energy into the crowd, but then it would be about an hour wait after his set before we’d see the Clan. DJ Ritz went back to playing the classics, some songs getting played multiple times, and eventually, DJ Mathematics came out to get set up.
Just after 11pm on a Sunday, Toronto’s Wu-Tang heads got turned up as Mathematics played some interview clips before dropping the beat to “Bring Da Ruckus.” With the club filled to capacity, the energy got cranked as the Clan rushed the stage, each emcee stepping out from the chaotic swarm on stage to spit their verses. After the high-energy intro track, RZA announced for those who didn’t know that they were celebrating the 25th anniversary of their classic debut album, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), and would be performing the entire album from beginning to end. On that note, he introduced the first-born son of the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard, bringing out Young Dirty Bastard to spit his father’s verses on “Shame On A Nigga.”
YDB was a spitting image of his father, with his hair dreaded in the same style Ol’ Dirty had back in 1993, and the same mannerisms on stage as he covered that first verse. By now, fans who were aware of Wu-Tang’s issue of never having a full roster on stage had the time to count, and could point out RZA, GZA, Young Dirty Bastard, Inspectah Deck, Raekwon, U-God, Ghostface Killah, Masta Killa and Cappadonna. Everyone was on stage except for the same member who missed the last show, Method Man. That is until his verse on “Shame” dropped after ODB’s, and we heard the lyrics:
“Yo RZA, yo Razor, hit me with the major,
The damage, my Clan understand it be flavor
Gunnin’, hummin’, comin’ at ya
First I’m gonna get ya, once I got ya, I gat ya
You could never capture…”
The Method Man’s stature graced the stage and the crowd erupted! Bucket list items were checked off and history was officially made, as all nine living members of The Wu-Tang Clan, plus the son of ODB, were now on the same stage together in Toronto. With the energy cranked, the Clan continued on with the album, getting the crowd to chant “Wu-Tang Killa Beez, we on a swarm!” before getting into “Clan In Da Front.” GZA of course slayed both his verses on the song, flowing smoothly as Mathematics switched the beat on him during the second verse. The Clan then performed “7th Chamber,” bringing back that old school vibe of spitting verses in cyphers.
This time the Clan really did stick to their word, performing the entire album in track listing order, from beginning to end. The crowd lit up their cell phones and lighters as they mellowed out to “Can It Be All So Simple.” RZA popped a bottle of champagne and sprayed it on the crowd as Masta Killa ripped his iconic verse on “Da Mystery of Chessboxin’.” The whole crowd got jumping and a mosh pit broke out during “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthin’ Ta F Wit’.” After performing fan favourites “C.R.E.A.M.” and “Method Man,” which included the man himself coming right up to the fans in the front row, they paused the show to celebrate the album’s milestone with a W-shaped birthday cake.
Nearing the end of the album, RZA and Ghostface did the most passionate performance of “Tearz” I’ve ever seen them do, putting their acting skills on display and really getting into the moment RZA raps about in his verse. They then asked the crowd who the best set-off man in all of Hip-Hop was, and of course everyone shouted out Inspectah Deck as they dove right into the classic “Protect Ya Neck.” Deck ripped that opening verse, followed by the other seven members on the song, YDB channeling that ODB spirit by jumping right into the VIP area during his verse.
With the 36 Chambers album now complete, RZA made sure to mention the one member on stage who actually wasn’t part of the group when they made their first album, and hadn’t rapped a single bar all night: Cappadonna. Sure to make up for it, they let Capp take the stage and absolutely slay his monster 54-bar verse on “Winter Warz,” Mathematics switching the beat up to some Biggie and Dr. Dre throughout. The show was far from over, as the Clan next got into several tracks off their solo albums, letting different members shine on each track.
GZA, Masta Killa and Inspectah Deck got the crowd pumping their fists to “Duel of the Iron Mic,” and Ghostface, Cappadonna and Method Man got the ladies grooving to “Ice Cream.” Method Man then picked up the tempo with his upbeat “Bring The Pain,” but the livest song of the night had to be “4th Chamber.” Comparing Toronto to world-class cities in Europe, RZA and Method Man made sure everyone in the building was jumping when that “4th Chamber” beat dropped, and the energy was on 100 as Ghostface ripped through his verse, and RZA restarted the track to spit his own verse.
By this point, Wu-Tang was on their Witty Unpredictable Talent And Natural Game, with DJ Mathematics seemingly pulling out beats at random, and the Clan reacting and making sure they nailed their verses. Math pulled out a deep album cut with Iron Flag‘s “In The Hood,” to which Masta Killa and Inspectah Deck rocked their verses on command, causing Method Man to praise their dopeness. Of course the show wouldn’t be complete without a proper tribute to the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard, and so the Clan got into some covers of Dirty’s solo material. As Meth talked to the crowd to get everyone involved, Young Dirty Bastard ran up and damn near jumped over him as he literally dove into a cover of “Shimmy Shimmy Ya.”
We’ve seen the routine plenty of times, but this Ol’ Dirty Bastard tribute would be a special one. Not only was YDB there doing a masterful job of channeling that ODB energy on stage, but Dirty’s second son, Ason, was also there to honor his dad. The crowd joined in as the two brothers covered “Brooklyn Zoo,” and both of them went back and forth acapella for the second verse. Raekwon had to pause to say how proud ODB would have been.
Next would be a treat, as the Clan performed one of the very few songs that features all ten of them on the same track: “Triumph.” You could see the excitement in their faces as each member took turns stepping to the front of the stage to rap their verses. This is where they ended their last concert in July, but Rebel isn’t strict with curfews, and so the party went on. Method Man did his routine where he got the crowd to make as much noise as they could, for as long as they could, leading them into a wild performance of “Da Rockwilder.” While in recent years Meth seems to have toned down his performances to avoid the risks that come with stage-diving, this crowd was so hyped and energetic that he actually turned back the clock and walked on top of the people as he does, before falling into a crowd-surf at the end of the song!
With several Clan members moving on and off the stage, basically running overtime, RZA and U-God decided to put in some extra work with a performance of “Gravel Pit.” The up-tempo track kept the crowd moving as Method Man came down to the barricades to clap hands with the fans up front, even grabbing hold of one’s Gopro at one point. RZA continued on into a rare performance of a mash-up between “Duck Seazon” and his solo track “B.O.B.B.Y.,” before Ghostface, Cappadonna and Raekwon returned to the stage to perform a deep Ironman album cut, “Fish.” After rocking the stage for almost two glorious hours, the Wu-Tang Clan decided to say peace.
This concert will go down as one for the ages, as Hexo, NeverJaded, and Peter Jackson succeeded in finally bringing all nine living members of the Wu-Tang Clan to Ontario. With recreational cannabis use becoming legal in our province on October 17th, Hexo is definitely making its mark as one of the coolest weed companies to go to when the time comes. Besides the celebration of the new laws, this was an even more epic celebration of one of the greatest Hip-Hop groups of all time (recently named THE greatest by our friends at AmbrosiaForHeads), and an album that will forever be known as one of Hip-Hop’s masterpieces.
Toronto Hip-Hop heads have been seeing Wu-Tang concerts for years, but this free show was the ultimate fan service, uniting the entire roster plus two of ODB’s kids, and celebrating their 25-year legacy in epic fashion. With the way the members of Wu-Tang are known to branch out into their own business, it’s like seeing a family reunion on stage when they’re all able to show up. They always like to say to their audiences, “the energy you give to us, we’ll give back to you,” and the crowd definitely gave them good energy to feed off of and make this an epic experience for everyone.
We’ll be sure to keep an eye out for what Hexo has in store next for its marketing campaign on NeverJaded.ca, as this one will be extremely difficult to top!
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