EDITORIAL DISCLAIMER: I received comped tickets from a publicist affiliated with the event for coverage. I was not specifically told what to write about or share from the event and all thoughts that follow are my own. No Killa Beez were harmed in the making of this review.
On August 1st, 2019 the Wu-Tang Clan 25th anniversary tour rolled into Harrah’s Casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa for the Stir Cove Concert Series. To anyone that’s not from the Midwest that description probably flies over your head but that’s okay, we’re often considered to be “flyover states” anyway. Iowa legalized casino gambling (in NE you can only play casino games on reservations) so casinos opened up operations just across the river from Omaha to attract people who wanted the action but didn’t want to go any further than they had to. You could still play keno and lottery here, but I digress. As the appetite for gambling waned those casinos followed the Las Vegas model of providing live entertainment to get you in the door, but ironically the Stir Cove Concert Series is OUTDOORS. That’s why it’s only held during the warm months of the year. You bring lawn chairs and sit in a grassy knoll in the shadow of Harrah’s sipping overpriced alcoholic beverages.
For this leg of the tour celebrating 25+ years since “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)” was released, the Clan was accompanied by two opening acts named Scholito Envoy and King Kahali. I admit to having no familiarity with either one before the show began, but my policy is to arrive early and take in ALL of the billed action. The crowd grew noticeably in size and volume as it neared time for the Wu-Tang Clan to perform but that didn’t stop either man from performing an energetic set. Here’s a taste of Scholito doing a song I gather is called “Money Is the Motive” based on the chorus. Not bad Mr. Envoy, not bad.
Both men were accompanied by a hype man named DJ J Saki. A good hype man like Fatman Scoop talks over the beat, to the rhythm of the track, and transfers his charisma and energy to the audience to get them excited. A BAD hype man interrupts hip-hop classics like “Scenario” and “The Choice Is Yours” to repeatedly shout “PUT ‘EM UP-PUT ‘EM UP-PUT ‘EM-UP-PUT ‘EM UP” as loud as he can, then plays 30 seconds of another legendary track and does the SAME THING. Dude, are you for real? First of all it’s hard to even say your name without sounding like you’re stuttering. “Deejay Jay Saki.” Couldn’t you just be “DJ Saki” or “J Saki” instead? Second of all with all due respect if I wanted to hear somebody cut the audio to yell exhortations at people I’d go to a UFC fight and listen to Bruce Buffer, not you. He kept trying to get a call and response “HIP, HOP” going and no one was feeling it. King Kahali isn’t even a hype man and got people’s “hands up” quicker.
All of this was just a prelude to the eventual main event, which started a little bit late at about 9:15-9:20 PM local time. You might think that was because the Wu had a professional crew of stage hands and roadies who were making sure everything was “perfect” before a legendary hip-hop group that needed no LESS than 10 working mics came on to perform. Sadly you’d be wrong about that. For the first 40 seconds of the show RZA had no working mic and couldn’t be heard by anybody but the front row.
Thankfully RZA’s mic was quickly fixed and the Clan was able to “Bring Da Ruckus” to the Omaha/Council Bluffs area. They promised to perform the entirety of “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)” at each stop on the tour and it appeared they were even following the album’s track order. Ghost was having a mic problem at the start too but they fixed his s%$t quick.
Now you might be asking “How can they perform the entire album in concert when Ol’ Dirty Bastard passed away in 2004?” I was wondering the same thing myself and was concerned that despite getting to finally enjoy a full Wu-Tang Clan ensemble on one stage it JUST wouldn’t feel authentic without ODB. The solution they came up with is quite frankly ingenious and honestly a little bit eerie. NO — they didn’t use a hologram — f%$k no. Instead they had ODB’s first born son, now christened Young Dirty Bastard in his father’s memory, come out with the Wu to perform his dad’s verses. Although he’s got a higher vocal pitch than his father, the genetics did pass from pops to son in terms of STYLE and DELIVERY. That same high octane flow and slightly slurred delivery came out of YDB’s mouth and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t give me goosebumps to hear him do his late father proud.
Much respect to the Wu for honoring their friend Ason Unique’s legacy by having his first born stand in for his dad. Hopefully this exposure on tour will ultimately launch a successful solo career for YDB, and maybe we’ll even hear him on future Wu-Tang Clan members either as a featured guest or full time Clan affiliated member. Speaking of which Cappadonna was on tour too, one of the few Wu members I was able to see live in concert (and interview) before their Stir Cove set, and he performed his single “Run” in addition to his verses on classic tracks like Raekwon’s “Ice Cream.” Aside from the irritating hype man for the opening acts and the fact a domestic can of beer cost $8 (OUCH) it was a very enjoyable night and I would highly recommend you go if the Wu comes through to your town (or a theater near you).
PS: Somebody please tell Allah Mathematics that “Gravel Pit” is 121 bpm. I’m not sure WHAT speed he was playing it at, but it was so fast that Method Man couldn’t keep up with his own verse.