Wu-Tang Clan: Live At Montreaux

posted November 19, 2008 03:19:10 PM CST | 6 comments

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One of the strongest points of the Wu-Tang Clan was the way they made studio albums feel live. From Method Man’s sniffing into microphones, to RZA’s Marley Marl-esque approach to leaving blemishes in the samples and mixes, Wu always felt unpredictable, unrehearsed and uncontained. Then again, ask many witnesses to post Wu-Tang Forever tours and shows, and you’ll usually hear something to the effect of The Fugees’ line about too many mics, not enough emcees. Yes, since their early days of making no tri-state stage safe for competition, Wu-Tang has been a bitter reminder why many arena and amphitheater tours have brought rap to a middle-ground, perhaps cheapening the concert experience.

Eagle Eye Media has followed premier artists in a variety of genres hitting the famed Montreux stage in Switzerland, allowing the eight Shaolin-based brothers (and one in spirit) set it off for rap. The recently-released DVD not only debunks reports that the Wu can’t hold down a large venue, and why European audiences encourage rap performance more than 95% of domestic crowds, making the whole show seem all the more meaningful.

Opening with “Wu-Tang Ain’t Nothin’ To Fuck With,” The W never forgets what brings their most loyal fans out. The truly unified anthem features everybody from a fatigued, raspy-voiced Inspectah Deck to a rambunctious RZA in crisp unison, feeding off a crowd with hands skyward and rhythmic crowd jumping. Then, the guys segue into solo attractions, stemming from Method Man’s “Bring The Pain” to GZA’s “Liquid Swords” and “Duel of The Iron Mic.” Allah Mathematics holds it down as the crew’s deejay, cueing in original samples as the eight members of the Clan hype the crowd from hit to hit. Longtime Method Man protégé Streetlife is the one non-Wu member on stage, contrary to a criticism from the group’s ’97 tour, that had reportedly over 20 people on stage. Street earns his keep with ad-libs, as well as a few verse opportunities that he puts his all into.

Towards the end of the show, the tight performing gets loose. The guys invite out extended stage-standers, and even welcome delegates from Switzerland’s fairer sex onstage to shake it to “Got Your Money.” Around this time, full songs become more medleys, as Wu collectively has over 50 hit and fan favorites to pull from. The microphone sharing gets a bit more sloppy, as U-God patiently waits for his turn on “Cherchez La Ghost,” being the only solid performance remaining. Shortly after Method Man encourages fans to buy the then-upcoming 8 Diagrams.

The show closes with "Gravel Pit," an interesting choice, as the crowd leaves not at its pinnacle. Still, with no filler, Wu-Tang Clan delivers one of their most cohesive, kinetic sets in the latter half of the group's success.

Compared to live 2Pac and Public Enemy concerts released to DVD, The Wu show is more exciting, with careful camera work, better editing, and a more reactive crowd. Still, as concerts from Coldplay and Van Morrison featured their Montreaux DVDs with elaborate set designs and more of an entertainment experience, one can say that the Wu stayed true to their roots, while another can quickly cite how their tours dwarf in comparison to Dr. Dre or Kanye West with lighting, sound, props and an overall air of surprise. Nevertheless, as this group determines their own collective future, this disc serves as a great time capsule to their abilities, showmanship and extensive catalogue of performable hits. 

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