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Live: Wu-Tang Clan, Public Enemy & De la Soul - Manchester Arena


It’s not surprising that it’s an early start at Manchester Arena with such a star-studded bill of hip-hop legends.

Ok, the ‘Gods of Rap’ moniker that was given to the tour could be interpreted as being slightly cringeworthy, but with a trio of acts with almost a century’s-worth of cumulative gigging experience – no-one looks like they give a damn about the name on the way in.

From what is basically still late afternoon, none other than DJ Premier is on hand to warm up the slowly filling venue with classics from A Tribe Called Quest, Dr. Dre and Eric B & Rakim.

Given the horror that took place at Manchester Arena almost two years ago, it’s totally understandable that security checks are stringent, but the delays mean that many fail to make it into the venue in time to catch De la Soul perform a career-spanning set.

However, that does nothing to quash the trio’s trademark vigour. Perhaps the only criticism could be shortness of the set, which feels like we are only treated to a fleeting snapshot of such a prolific group.

As 8pm draws closer its time for perhaps the biggest heavyweights of political hip-hop to take to the stage. Only problem is, when they do there is a more than notable absentee in the shape of Flava Flav. In spite of this, Chuck D and DJ Lord perform as ‘Public Enemy Radio’.

They may be depleted in numbers (and it’s understandable why a few who forked out for eye-watering ticket prices may feel dissatisfied) but again they fit every hit they can into a 45-minute set that doesn’t pause for breath.

While the stage is changed up for the main event, DJ Premier returns to provide a soundtrack to a vibrant-looking audience heading out to get an overpriced pint. Leaving to pop for a smoke is strictly forbidden – a policy that bosses may regret as we re-enter the venue for Wu-Tang Clan to see (and smell) smoke clouds all over. Rules or no rules it’s almost a right of passage with a lineup like this.

Wu-Tang unfortunately are a man down too – with Method Man proving a no-show on this occasion – but given that it’s six years since the collective all turned up at the same gig, it’s not that surprising. On the other hand, an intriguing addition to the lineup is Young Dirty Bastard. If you’re reading this you’ve at the very least heard of his Dad.

A marathon setlist that at least extracts from more than 30 songs is punctuated with an electrifying tribute to O.D.B, with his son providing a more than adequate impersonation on ‘Shimmy Shimmy Ya’ and ‘Got Your Money’ among others.

The Wu-Tang Clan reimagining of The Beatles’ ‘Come Together’ is a mass-singalong as always and there are voyages into solo material from Ghostface Killah, GZA and Raekwon, before an evening that has brimmed with highlights is topped off in euphoric fashion with ‘Gravel Pit’.

As mentioned earlier, if some leave perturbed by the lack of full lineups on the bill it’s kind of understandable – but those who did attend made sure everything went into their performances.