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GZA At The Echoplex, Thursday October 2nd 2014

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GZA

I grew up listening to the Wu-Tang Clan’s rap songs, they mean so much for me and GZA is a genius lyricist… sure! Can I uncheck all of the above, I mean not the part about GZA being a genius lyricist because I now know he is, but I can’t say I am into the hip hop culture,… I was just trying to emulate what all these people waiting outside were thinking. The Wu Tang Clan’s GZA gave a free concert at the Echoplex on Thursday night, and, as I expected, the line to get in was huge, mostly male and in its mid-30s… as a Wu-Tang-Clan-concert virgin, much older than them and female, ‘what was I doing there?’, I asked myself repeatedly… But I didn’t regret for a minute, such a strong connection between an artist and his public is a rare thing to witness, and last night was one of the finest examples I have ever seen.

Black Fantastic was opening the night, a woman-man duo backed up by keyboard, drums and bass (no guitar) and adventuring in a sort of jazzy-gospel R&B occasionally turning hip hop. One of the singers had a huge afro and there was a touch of African roots in their outfits, however they were really into a sort of lounge jazz, with wobbling keys and R&B harmonies. They were not really my trip, but people loved them.

‘The LA crowd was on fire last night. Peace ‪@RealMastaKilla for holding it down and ‪@ProdigalSunn for coming through’, tweeted GZA himself after the show. Yeah, I expected a rowdy crowd, lots of pushing and unruly young people and a gangsta rap ambiance, but no such thing! People were behaving so well despite the packed-to-the-roof club and a real enthusiasm coming from the large crowd as GZA pointed it out,… a guy behind me even apologized for bumping into me!

I knew that the Wu-Tang Clan was/is a very big deal for rappers united around the world, but when the Genius took the stage, it was a forest of fists and hands in the air, doing the iconic Wu-Tang Clan sign, matching the numerous shirts worn by boys and girls. Then it was an avalanche of rhymes and a tsunami of words form start to finish, echoed by the crowd who knew all of them by heart. Often, GZA was starting a line and the crowd was finishing it at unison and this was a very amazing thing to witness… what did I say? The Wu-Tang Clan means a LOT to all these people, the result was a high energy, high-spirited show, and I let myself carried by the flow. Not that I was singing along (how could I have? I knew nothing and couldn’t follow the lyrics!) but I was with them, I was with this girl holding tight a poster given away inside the club and commemorating the night, I was with this guy who had brought his whole vinyl collection to the show (and getting it signed after the show) I was with this guy in a wheelchair holding a hand made Wu-Tang Clan necklace (and getting it signed after the show) moving closer to the stage as the show was progressing.

According to the reaction of the crowd, there were a lot of classics, ‘Liquid swords’, ‘Shadowboxin’, and lots of motherfuckers (was that ‘Reunited’? ‘Triumph’?)… furthermore the energy went to the roof when Wu Tang Clan member, Masta Killa, joined GZA on stage for a few more classics… and this is when I completely understood what a big deal the hip hop band with a name coming from ancient Japan was, how much a myth, a religious cult they had become… Forging rhymes with a ridiculous facility and reciting them with a flow that hasn’t stopped since the 90s — I am sure of this despite this being my first time seeing him — GZA at 48 doesn’t seem to slow down, he delivers with the same flawless dexterity and a clean and almost calm ease, despite the many streams of words moving through his mouth at each minute, he picks up on the crowd’s energy and methodically plays with it, he passes the mic to people in the crowd, included the fervent female fan next to me, he gives high fives and and he and Masta Killa sign about everything presented by fans after the gig: vinyl, posters, t-shirts, and even naked breasts…

The Wu-Tang Clan has a new album set up for a release on December 2nd via Warner Bros and GZA is working on his solo album ‘Dark Matter’, which should be released next year… and the best thing about it? He is going to rap about science, physics, cosmos, and the big bang: he is a co-founder of science genus to engage high school students in science using hip hop, so I certainly have to revisit this later! The Clan is really back, but they were hardly gone.

More pictures of the show here.

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