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Music review, Wu-Tang Clan at House of Blues

Method ManGhostface KillahRaekwonOl' Dirty BastardStaten Island (New York City)

Boasting a massive stable of distinctive emcees and a sound that changed hip-hop in the '90s, it seemed inevitable that the Wu-Tang Clan would spin off into a cottage industry.

With producer RZA as its ringleader and resident mogul, the Staten Island, N.Y., collective started pumping out dozens of side projects, soundtracks and even fashion lines. But like many corporations, the group quickly found itself overextended. Inconsistent solo works by Wu-Tang members diluted the talent pool, and even RZA's trademark production—spooky strings, plinking pianos and samples from kung-fu films—started to stagger behind the trends.

Yet nearly 10 years since the Wu-Tang Clan's galvanizing 1993 debut, "Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)," the group has persevered. It's even more impressive that someone (RZA? The record label?) is still able to get the Wu-Tang show on the road.

The Wu-Tang Clan typically numbers nine strong, and trying to get that many emcees on one schedule must be a thankless task. But miraculously, eight were on hand at the House of Blues on Wednesday night, and the ninth had a rock-solid excuse: Ol' Dirty Bastard (or ODB) is serving time in prison.

The rest of the Wu-Tang crew—RZA, GZA/Genius, Masta Killa, Inspectah Deck, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, U-God and Method Man—actually managed to offer a solid two-hour set that stood in marked contrast to the chaos of past performances.

Staggered like a revue, the show allowed several solo Wu-Tang stars to rhyme and energize the crowd, from U-God to GZA/Genius. Each showed off their skills before joining forces with two or three other Wu-Tang members.

Ghostface Killah—probably the group's most creative emcee—emerged for a long set, supported largely by his frequent foil Raekwon. Next came RZA, freed from the studio and encouraged to emcee in every sense. RZA remains the keeper of the Wu-Tang flame, and he does a great job lauding the talents of his fellow rhymers between songs.

And really, that's what sets the Wu-Tang Clan apart from other hip-hop troupes. Despite the individual success of emcees such as Method Man— who delivered his hits "Method Man" and "Bring the Pain" in his gruff, smoke-seared voice—the Wu-Tang Clan seems refreshingly bereft of ego.

When RZA brought out all eight members, the group's breakout stars, Method Man and Ghostface Killah, stood back and let their friends shine on songs such as "Triumph" and the statement-of-purpose "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nothing Ta F' Wit." And when it came time to close after the catchy single "Uzi (Pinky Ring)," the group dedicated ODB's "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" to the incarcerated rapper.

Maybe that's how the Wu-Tang Clan has lasted a decade. The members might be juggling their own careers, but the aggregate thinks as one.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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