A Shaolin Hangout: Wu-Tang Clan’s first show back breaks Red Rocks

By Daniel Paiz

Shaolin crashed with the Red Rocks Amphitheater, as Wu-Tang Clan performed their first concert since the start of the pandemic to a sold out venue. Big Boi of OutKast along with long-time collaborator Sleepy Brown woke the crowd up, while DJ Chris Karns of Denver welcomed in concert goers to start out the night. This event had everything: a full symphonic orchestra, legendary performers, and a crowd scattered across a scenic venue. It isn’t hyperbole to say if you missed out on this, make sure to not miss out on anything else like this in the future. A walk down (recent) memory lane will guide those who missed out starting below.

Warming up the crowd tonight

Denver staple Chris Karns got the crowd to loosen up and remember they’re likely at their first concert in over a year. Couldn’t tell who was on the mic while Karns spun tunes, but the crowd was put on notice that this would be a night full of jams.

Big Boi and Sleepy Brown get slept on

It is completely understandable that a large portion of this crowd was there to really focus on Wu-Tang Clan. I get it. However, I am baffled if you happen to not have OutKast on the same tier as Wu. Obviously it’s a personal choice and very subjective to one’s own tastes. But Big Boi has been putting out jams since OutKast kind of went quiet over a decade ago.

Busting out tunes from as far back as SouthernPlayaListicCadillacMusik and as recent as his last album, Daddy Fat Saxxx knew when to switch up the tempo. Some tracks were chill, which then led to some movers like “Bombs over Baghdad” and “The Whole World.” The best part of the night for me had to be when Lucius Left Foot made an announcement I was completely unaware of: Big Boi and Sleepy Brown have an album coming out soon!

photo courtesy of Big Boi’s Instagram, found here: https://www.instagram.com/p/CSidfpJrg-5/

If I recall correctly, it was called The Big Sleepover or something like that. There are a few singles already out, including a feature from Killer Mike. The man behind BOOMIVERSE is very excited for this project, and so am I. His performance included a healthy dosage of Sleepy Brown singing and crooning like only he can. It was honestly the best concert music set of the night. Now before you call for my head, the headliner didn’t have the best concert set, because they didn’t have one. It was truly an experience.

36 Chambers of Shaolin

photo credit to Red Rocks IG, found here: https://www.instagram.com/p/CSkKTaxh-gF/

The Colorado Symphony Orchestra has always been top-notch the handful of times I’ve witnessed them prior to tonight. This Friday the 13th, however, was something else. Take one part 36 Chambers of Shaolin playing behind the orchestra. Then take another equal part of that orchestra scoring the movie as it progresses. Finally, add in a healthy equal portion of RZA, GZA, Method Man, Inspectah Deck, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon The Chef, U-God, and YDB (more on that soon) to those two previous ingredients. What you have is, Wu-Tang Clan and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra live scoring 36 Chambers of Shaolin. I dare you to find that kind of quality experience elsewhere. You can’t.

The cherry on top, you’re wondering? It was Wu’s first concert since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down concerts. These guys wanted to do something different, and they overly achieved that. Last time the Wu was in town, there was no Method Man. This time, it finally felt like I experienced as close to the original crew as possible. Almost complete…

YDB (Young Dirty Bastard, who is the spitting image of his father, Ol’ Dirty Bastard) delivered his dad’s verses quite well. He has ODB’s energy, but he doesn’t quite have the verses down. It’s not that he doesn’t know the words. Rather, he uses slightly too much energy in a way that drowns out the verses at times. From what I could tell, it was more of an homage kind of performance rather than trying to perfectly replicate the verses. He looks just like him, but YDB knows better than anyone there was only one ODB.

A throwback to childhood

We were smoking weed and watching Kung Fu movies, and now in Colorado we’re smoking weed and watching Kung Fu movies!

-RZA

RZA said in a few more words than those chosen above that he and his Wu brethren were going to treat tonight like a return to their childhood, of sorts. In the spirit of getting back together on stage, there was a feeling in the crowd of getting concerts back, even if just for tonight. A majority of people were not wearing masks; make of that what you will. The energy onstage and in front of it largely made it feel pre-Spring 2020. With this movie selection, it felt even earlier than that.

photo credit to Red Rocks IG, found here: https://www.instagram.com/p/CSkKTaxh-gF/

36 Chambers of Shaolin felt like part coming of age story, part a hero’s journey story. It was hard to keep up with every part of it, mainly due to that pesky concert happening right in front of the screen. The Colorado Symphony Orchestra made it feel like an auditorium for classical music with how well they captured the mood and tone of each sequence of events onscreen. Unfortunately at times, they were a bit drowned out by the bass of the speakers. The mics also were a bit too loud at times too, further delaying reception of the orchestral component of the show.

Despite all of that, the orchestra continued to add an element often reserved only for music awards shows. It was an experience because it was a bridging of sounds. The fullness and layered sounds of classical instruments, together with the very instruments utilized by folks who were denied the aforementioned instruments back in the 1970s. Hip-Hop beats and rhymes interwoven with strings, horns, and percussion. It’s hard to rank this concert in terms of my favorites only because of how different it was. If you were lucky enough to witness this, realize not many might ever get the chance to.

Here’s a sneak peak of what the setup was for this historic collaboration, via GZA’s IG.

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