Concert Review: Method Man & Redman at The Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto (2022.11.05)

Method Man & Redman

Canadian fans of hardcore and classic Hip-Hop are in for a treat this November, as the iconic duo of Method Man & Redman have embarked on a 5-city tour across the country. Kicking it off in Montreal the previous night, this show in Toronto would be just the second stop of the tour as they make their way out west, with shows in Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver booked over the next week (tickets can be found at True Rhythm’s website here).

Right off the bat, some might say this is Method Man’s redemption for the fans who missed him on the Wu-Tang Clan & Nas N.Y. State Of Mind Tour this past summer, as he missed several tour dates due to scheduling conflicts, including the Toronto show at Budweiser Stage, but joined them along with Redman for some select shows in the latter half of the tour. That’s one of the great things about the Wu-Tang Clan though; there is so much talent and so many songs between the 9 members of the group that they can each rock a show individually, regardless of sharing the stage with other members or how many of them show up. Method Man in particular is known as one of Hip-Hop’s all-time great performers, whether he’s rocking a stage solo, as a group with Wu-Tang, or as a duo with Redman. It’s always a great time seeing Method Man perform live, especially when he’s joined by Redman, as the duo have a unique, special energy when they share the stage together, and are a must-see for any Hip-Hop head.

Going into this show, fans could expect to mostly hear the classics. Red & Mef of course have their two albums they’ve released together, 1999’s Blackout! and 2009’s Blackout! 2, and they each have extensive solo discographies going back to the early ’90s. As a fan who’s seen them several times over the years though, I was hopeful to see some of the newer music they’ve released get performed live. Since the last time they performed in Toronto (at 2017’s Beer Fest), Method Man has gone on to continue his new series of albums called The Meth Lab, the third installment Meth Lab Season 3: The Rehab dropping earlier this year. Redman meanwhile has been building up anticipation for his long-awaited Muddy Waters 2 album, releasing a few standalone singles as well as a 3-song EP in 2020 simply titled 3 Joints. With decades of music behind them and more new music on the way, it was exciting to see how their set list would take us through the years, and whether we’d see something new.

Gamble The Greedy Grin

Arriving at The Phoenix Concert Theatre about half an hour after doors had opened, the line to get inside this sold-out show stretched almost an entire block away – the longest I’ve ever seen it at this venue. By the time I made it in, the local openers had already started warming up the stage. There would be some familiar faces from the local scene who I hadn’t seen since before COVID, as Stacee Brizzle was hosting and tossing out merch into the crowd to keep them energized between performers. She’d introduce Gamble The Greedy Grin, an emcee known for high-energy, rapid-fire raps who I last saw open for La Coka Nostra in 2019. Since then, Gamble’s gone on to release some new music that he’d perform live, many of the crowd experiencing these songs for the first time.

Gamble The Greedy Grin would perform songs off of his latest albums, 2020’s The Graveyard Shift and 2021’s Tequila Sunrise, plus some standalone singles. Songs like “Nightmares” and “Darkside” showcased his taste in horror-themed tracks, as he ripped some speedy raps over hard-hitting beats. He’d also get the ladies moving to “Get Nasty,” and showed off his pure rapping skills by spitting an acapella verse mid-way through his set. The energy was kept high throughout Gamble The Greedy Grin’s set, another standout track being “Snakes,” and he could be seen later on in the evening getting props from the fans as he joined the crowd to watch the headliners.

Reel Wolf

Stacee Brizzle would return and toss some more free merch into the crowd before introducing the group of emcees she’s been known to roll with, the Wolf Pack. The group from Reel Wolf Productions, known for their hardcore, cinematic music videos, had an epic sounding production behind them as the founder Tom Vujcic came out to greet the crowd. He’d introduce DJ Chino on the turntables, special guest Tyler Reiner on drums, and would bring out the four emcees in the group one by one: Seen B, Mersinary, Swann, and Resin. They set it off with the intense “Warfare,” each of the four emcees killing their verses, and would continue on into a few songs off of the brand-new EP just released in August, Nocturnal. They’d get into a more upbeat party track with “Dusk Til Dawn” before returning to more of that grimy, hardcore vibe they’re known for with the newest single, “Gargoyles.”

After hitting the crowd with these high-energy tracks, Reel Wolf would take some time to give an RIP shoutout to the Original Don Dada, Louie Rankin. The Jamaican actor/dancehall artist most known for his role in Belly (which also co-stars Method Man) had passed away in late 2019, just before COVID hit, and so this may have been Reel Wolf’s first opportunity to pay tribute to him live on stage. They would perform a rare throwback that features Louie on the hook, “Chaotic Methods,” with Swann & Resin killing their verses and the rest of the crew joining in to cover Louie’s vocals: “slap dem fe fun!” The group would then close out with a single from their 2020 album, Rabid Violence, performing “Carnage” before heading to the merch booth to meet the fans. Seeing Reel Wolf back for the first time since COVID was dope, as they brought that energy as usual, and having the addition of live drums gave their beats an extra kick.

DJ Chino would remain on the turntables and spin some tracks while working out some technical issues with the sound crew. By the time they got all the equipment sounding right, it was time for the touring artists to hit the stage. Joining Method Man & Redman for this entire Canadian tour would be a veteran who knows the Phoenix Concert Theatre all too well, Krizz Kaliko.

Having a 20+ year history of touring the world and performing alongside underground legend Tech N9ne, Krizz Kaliko has performed at the Phoenix Concert Theatre plenty of times over the years, representing Strange Music Inc. and showcasing an impeccable chemistry with the label head that could rival Red & Mef’s. This time would be different though, as Krizz recently left Strange Music to form his own independent label, Ear House Inc., and this would be the first time Toronto fans would get to see him perform his own solo set. Those who caught Tech N9ne’s concert at the Danforth Music Hall last month could say Krizz’s stage presence was sorely missed. While it’s sad to see the duo of Tech & Krizz end their run together, some might say Krizz was living in the shadow of Tech N9ne, and it was time for him to take a bigger spotlight.

Krizz Kaliko

Krizz Kaliko may not be touring with Tech N9ne anymore, but there is no love lost, as Krizz would have plenty of shoutouts to his former label and partner-in-rhyme throughout his set, and he would be joined on stage by Tech’s cousin Marcus Yates (f/k/a Oobergeek), who has featured on both of their albums before. Being used to sharing the stage and putting on some choreography while he sings and raps, Krizz Kaliko tore it up with Yates backing him as he opened his set with 2016’s “No No’s” and moved into the classic throwback “Spaz.” The crowd was hyped from the beginning, and they stayed turned up as Krizz got into a newer joint off of his 2020 album, Legend, performing the self-depreciating yet aggressive “Avoiding Mirrors.” So far, we were getting a good balance between the familiar classics Krizz has been known to perform with Tech N9ne, and his own deep album cuts he hasn’t performed before when sharing the stage with Tech.

Similar to how Tech N9ne used to temporarily leave the stage to give Krizz Kaliko a segment to perform on his own, Krizz left the stage and gave Marcus Yates the space to perform his own song “Window.” Krizz would then return with some mic stands set up, and him and Yates would groove behind the mic stands as Krizz showed off his singing talents on the raunchy “Outta Line,” getting the ladies in the crowd to dance as he killed his vocals. Marcus Yates would then get to perform another song, his single “In The Greatest Way,” with their DJ coming out to the front to put on some dance moves while he rapped. When Krizz got back to the stage, he took a moment to acknowledge that Method Man & Redman fans may not necessarily know about him and Strange Music, introducing himself and where he’s from, but there were still plenty of Strange fans in the building who already knew. Krizz would then get into a medley of familiar classics, and the crowd turned up as he performed his hook from Tech N9ne’s “Dysfunctional,” and rocked his own throwbacks “Unstable” and “Anxiety,” sitting on a chair to sing the emotional parts and jumping up to rap with a ton of energy.

Krizz Kaliko’s DJ had been getting the crowd extra hyped all night, as she ran between the turntables and the front of the stage to dance for certain songs, backed up Krizz’s vocals, and even beatboxed for the acapella parts of songs. She would introduce to the crowd “DJ Kaliko,” trading places with Krizz to show off some fly dance moves at the front of the stage while Krizz did some scratches on the turntables – another talent fans hadn’t seen him show off before. While I didn’t catch the name of Krizz’s DJ, her energy was contagious, as she had the crowd loving every moment and getting more hyped.

They would trade places again, and Krizz Kaliko would get into some of his more explicit, raunchier material, performing throwbacks including “Titties” and “Areola.” While Tech N9ne fans have seen these songs get performed live before (usually with young ladies taking off their tops), the way Krizz rocked “Areola” was special, as his DJ flipped the beat to The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” midway through and he slayed his high notes over that addicting beat. I’m curious now to see what a Krizz Kaliko cover of the original Jack White vocals would look like, as that style of rock suits his vocal range nicely. Giving a shoutout to Tech N9ne, Krizz continued his segment of Strange Music hits, telling the crowd these are the ones they know him for as he did the hooks from “Erbody But Me” and “Caribou Lou.” He’d then close out his set with a couple more of his own deep album cuts, including “21” off of his last album, Legend.

Krizz Kaliko’s set was epic, as we got a similar energy we’re used to seeing from his past tours with Tech N9ne, but now with the spotlight flipped, as he’s able to command the stage as the primary star. Krizz showed off an incredible vocal range to go along with his speedy raps, and he had great synergy and choreography with both his DJ as well as Marcus Yates as his hypeman. It’s great to see him getting this spotlight this deep into his career, and he’s worked hard to earn his flowers.

The crowd was hyped after Krizz Kaliko’s performance, but unfortunately there would be over 40 minutes of waiting before we’d get to see the headliners we came here for. A playlist of Hip-Hop classics played as Krizz Kaliko’s backdrop and equipment were taken down, and we waited for the next DJ to set up. The playlist seemed to flow chronologically through the ’90s and early 2000s, as it went from 2Pac to Biggie to OutKast and DMX. Some fans stayed hyped and sang along to the classics, while others grew impatient staying on their feet for so long. Eventually, DJ Mathematics came out to get his gear set up, and once he was ready, the waiting was over and he immediately brought out Method Man & Redman.

Method Man & Redman

Once the crowd saw that DJ Mathematics was ready to go, there was no need to talk everyone into getting hyped again – we all turned up as he went straight to dropping the beat to “Errbody Scream,” and Redman & Method Man both came out spitting their verses. After killing that opening track, Red & Mef took some time to spark up a rivalry between Toronto and Montreal, comparing which city on the tour so far had the most energetic crowd. Time would tell, as they moved into LL Cool J’s “4, 3, 2, 1,” performing their featured verses with perfect execution as they timed when to fill in each other’s bars. Getting the crowd to make noise for their albums Blackout! and Blackout! 2, they then pulled out a rare cut from each of those albums, smoothly transitioning into “1, 2, 1, 2,” and getting the crowd to bounce to “City Lights.” This would prove to be just a warm up though, as soon enough they would crank the energy and take it back to each of their debut albums.

Redman took it back to 1992, getting the crowd to jump as he rocked the classic “Time 4 Sum Aksion,” and Method Man kept it in the same upbeat tempo, going to 1993 with “M-E-T-H-O-D Man.” Core fans know the saying “the energy you give to us, we’ll give back to you,” and this crowd had the right energy for Method Man to pull off a stage dive at the end of the latter track – something he’s been doing less frequently in his older years. With the energy cranked, Redman took the spotlight back with the ’98 classic “I’ll Bee Dat!,” the crowd knowing all the words to yell back at him, and then it would be time for a surprise. Making a rare appearance north of the border would be close Wu-Tang affiliate, Streetlife, who was back in Toronto for the first time in what may be close to a decade. After popping a bottle of champagne, Streetlife did a throwback routine with Method Man, performing his featured verse on Meth’s ’98 track “Grid Iron Rap,” and Method Man’s lyrics “leave the same way I came, bringing motherfucking pain” making for a smooth transition into his 1994 classic “Bring The Pain.”

Not to be outdone, Redman came back with his fire-hot verse from “Da Goodness,” rocking the mic with expert precision; Method Man played hypeman by filling in bars and tossing water onto the crowd whenever Red nailed a complex flow. By now, Method Man & Redman’s set had been nothing but energy, as they came with hit after hit, each taking turns performing cuts from their solo albums, and the crowd reacting accordingly to these timeless classics. It was time to mellow down a bit, as Mathematics played the Rick James song “Mary Jane” for everyone to sing along and light up to. This transitioned nicely into the Wu-Tang classic “Ice Cream,” with Method Man performing his hook on the Raekwon track, and him & Redman doing some call-and-response with the crowd over that beat. They used this to test the crowd’s vocal participation, getting the fellas to bark like dogs and the ladies to sing, as they would get us to join in for the next couple songs.

After taking turns making the fellas and the ladies in the crowd each make some noise, they next performed a throwback for the ladies with Method Man’s “All I Need,” getting the crowd to cover that Mary J. Blige chorus. They followed this with Redman’s ’96 classic “Pick It Up,” getting the crowd to chant along to the chorus as Red rapped his verses over an alternate beat with a bouncier west-coast vibe to it. Streetlife would then make a return to the stage and perform a couple tracks with Red & Mef, including the 2015 Meth Lab single “Straight Gutta” and a Wu-Tang Clan deep album cut, “Do You Really (Thang Thang).” While I was hyped to see Method Man & Redman kill their verses on the former track, this segment was just for Streetlife to perform his verses on these songs. Method Man would get into a speech about how Streetlife had been in the hospital recently and how much it meant for him to travel with them for this show – the crowd made noise to show their appreciation.

Continuing in the theme of showing appreciation, Redman next made a speech to big up DJ Mathematics, running down his resume of producing songs for Wu-Tang, including their entire 2017 album The Saga Continues, and having created the original Wu-Tang “W” logo. They’d give Mathematics time to shine, as he chopped up the turntables and pulled some stunts, spinning as he did his scratches, using his face to scratch the turntables, and kicking off his sneakers for Method Man to catch as he scratched. It was an epic display of old-school, authentic DJing skills.

Making sure the crowd participation was still there, Redman got the crowd to sing the vocals “fly, Robin, fly!,” leading into a performance of the weed smokers’ anthem, “How High.” Having spent decades performing this classic together, the chemistry Redman & Method Man showcased was perfection, as they each nailed their verses, backed each other up with perfect timing, and moved completely in sync on the stage. They continued with the familiar routine, next getting into some tracks from the How High Soundtrack, doing some more call-and-response with the crowd over the beat from “Cisco Kid” and getting us to sing the chorus. This of course led to the question they’ve been asking for decades: do the fans want to see a How High sequel? After making some noise, the beat to “Part II” dropped, and Redman got us singing to the Toni Braxton chorus as he and Method Man killed their verses. Method Man could be seen pointing to his mic as he rapped, trying to get the sound engineer to turn it up, and this would be needed for the next segment.

What’s become a staple in Method Man & Redman’s live shows is the part where they remind you that they came from the era where you really needed to be able to rap in order to be considered a great emcee. No gimmicks or jingles for the radio, no special effects or pop vocals, just raw rap. They show this off every time when they perform the 1999 classic “Y.O.U.,” as they get the crowd involved in a call-and-response for the chorus, then abruptly cut off the beat so they can rap every word of their rapid-fire verses acapella, nailing the flow to still be in time with the DJ’s cuts and for when the DJ brings the beat back in, and doing it all with minimal backup from each other. This performance was no different, as Method Man & Redman both killed their verses and the crowd got super energized when the beat came back for the chorus. Having energized themselves with those verses, Red & Mef did some dance choreography before getting into the segment where they pay tribute to the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard.

With a room full of diehard Wu-Tang fans, the crowd gave an overwhelming response to hearing ODB’s name, and we rapped along to every word as Red & Meth covered “Shimmy Shimmy Ya.” While this has become standard at every Wu-Tang concert, Method Man was especially emotional for this one, nearly coming to tears as he explained November is ODB’s birth month, reflecting on how ODB would have felt seeing the crowd cover his hit song with so much energy. Ol’ Dirty Bastard would have been turning 54 this month.

Continuing on with the tribute, Method Man continued to test how many diehard Wu-Tang fans were in the building, letting Mathematics pick random throwbacks to play for the crowd to rap along to. Showing more maturity in his 50s, he told the crowd to substitute the N-word with “ninja” as they covered “Shame On A N****,” the crowd rapping ODB’s verse before Meth spit his own. After covering “C.R.E.A.M.,” Method Man would take time out to laugh at the irony of white fans passionately rapping along to Raekwon’s lyrics about “sticking up white boys in ball courts,” still appreciating the love. Him and Redman would speak on how they’re thankful to still be rocking crowds 30 years into their careers, showing love to Toronto for being day-one supporters (and finally admitting we were more hyped than Montreal), before capping off the Wu-Tang segment with “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthin’ Ta F Wit.” Streetlife would return to the stage to cover RZA’s verse on the song, with Method Man covering Inspectah Deck rather than performing his own verse, and Redman turning everyone up and chanting to the chorus.

As they’ve been known to do, Method Man & Redman would close out their performance with their biggest single as a duo, 1999’s “Da Rockwilder.” They’d run the routine of getting everyone to make as much noise as they could for as long as they could before the DJ dropped the beat, and they’d each take turns killing their verses. This was the most hyped song of the night, although the show wasn’t quite over yet. Red & Mef would take some time to have some more fun with the crowd, getting everyone to clap to a beat before saying peace. An emotional Method Man had a few more things to say, giving a shoutout to the Indigenous people of Canada, as well as an RIP shoutout to Takeoff of the Migos, who was recently killed in a shooting. He’d tell the fans to show respect regardless of whether they liked Takeoff’s music or not, and condemned the media’s direction to blame the violence on the music, saying there’s a difference between Hip-Hop culture and gang culture, the former being about spreading love and awareness while having fun.

On that note, Redman made sure to end the night with positive vibes, getting the crowd to make noise based on the decade they were born in. With most of the crowd born in the ’70s and ’80s (with a few ’90s and a handful of 2000s babies in the building), Method Man & Redman ended off the night by covering a ’70s classic with Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight,” getting the crowd to rap along with them. With his Instagram account mostly being about weightlifting and fitness these days, Method Man had some fun showing off his abs and tossing his shirt into the part of the crowd with the loudest ladies. After vibing out to the classic joint, Method Man & Redman thanked the crowd again and officially ended the show, tossing out water bottles, towels and other goodies into the crowd, and shouting out an upcoming Blackout! 3 album.

Now having entered their 50’s, it’s incredible to see Method Man & Redman both still performing at this level, with the same energy. They may not stage dive as often for safety reasons (too many fans had their phones out during “Da Rockwilder”), but when it comes to stage presence, choreography, showmanship, and most importantly, rocking the microphone, these two emcees are still at the top of their game. While I would’ve liked to see them expand their set list and try out some newer songs (Redman’s “80 Barz” would’ve been epic!!), seeing the classics get performed never gets old, and the way they execute the performance on stage makes it exciting to see every time. You can never go wrong seeing Method Man & Redman perform live, and this turned out to be a great show as expected.

Check out this playlist of Wu-Tang concert videos from all the times I’ve seen them over the years.

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