It’s lucky Ghost and Sheek are still some of the best around.
Otherwise, the show sure wouldn’t have been worth losing Thursday night sleep over. Our bad time begins in line, where power-trip bouncers vie with scowling women at the $6 coat check for the most impressively bottom-of-the-barrel service. Once the bouncer is finished interrogating my friend about the pen in his pocket (“I dunno, man, you might write all over everything”), we head in for over-priced drinks, mean vibes, and opening sets that waver between dull and laughable.
Gossip’s the space for a rap show – the bass booms and the dance floor’s huge. Unfortunately, the skinny angry kid screaming a capella homophobia into the mic doesn’t give the crowd a ton to do (except for the particularly adventurous few who find entertainment in getting hauled out by bouncers). Maybe there was a time when Nickelback references, Michael J. Fox jokes, and the word “faggot” were edgy, but if I ever get myself a DeLorean, that won’t be my choice destination.
This is the low point of the opening acts, admittedly. Northwest Division’s tracks are fine, though their stage presence is grating – some rappers can pull off gangster swagger, some can’t, and NWD needs to check which side of the line they’re on.
Chad Kroeger is mentioned again, to jeering boos from the audience. There’s something so pop-culture pathetic about a bunch of rappers dissing Nickelback. Maybe it’s the genre thing – Guns N’ Roses can feud with Mötley Crüe all they want, but keep a straight face while imagining them trying to call out De La Soul. If you’re gonna talk smack about somebody, they might as well be relevant.
The crowd continues to muster enthusiasm for the monotony of the opening acts. At some point, my +1 glances tiredly at me. “Never braided my hair at a rap concert before,” she sighs.
And then, finally, Trinity Chris briefly yells at us while swinging a T-shirt around, then disappears, and we know what’s coming next. You can’t help but imagine Ol’ Dirty: “Introducing the Ghost…Face…KILLAHHHHH, no-one could get illa!”
Wu-Block, a merging of Wu-Tang and D-Block members, is an instantaneous adrenaline shot, a cocktail of hard-hitting beats, effortless style, and energetic stage presence.
The set opens with Wu-Block’s DJ spinning a pop quiz of classic hip hop, and the crowd is instantly in the air yelling the lyrics to Pharoahe Monch, Cypress Hill, Tribe, and more. The nagging irritation of bad service and dull openers disappears in a second as Wu-Block takes the stage, with Ghostface’s opening verse the epitome of his unpredictable style.
Sheek hulks casually across the stage, a bottle of liquor hanging from his fingers – it gradually becomes apparent that he’s almost incapacitatingly stoned, but there’s no discernible effect on his performance. Between songs, he looks as though he may suffer a giggling fit, but when the beats drop he doesn’t miss a syllable.
Both rappers swagger unabashedly, pulling out all the classic hip hop stops in a display of irresistible showmanship (“When I say Wu, y’all say Block!”). Later, they divide the crowd into sides – Sheek yells to his, “Say fuck that side!” and they roar back. Ghost smiles. “Say suck my dick!”.
Ghostface and Sheek are a delight to watch, a classic-feel credit to the genre. Ghostface sports a Van City hoodie; Sheek Louch yells that Vancouver is “the mothafuckin’ best”. But the obvious catering is carried off with such aplomb that we accept it happily. When two guys are pulled out of the crowd to do Method and Dirty’s verses from Protect Ya Neck, the crowd goes insane with Vancouver pride.
Unsurprisingly, the old Wu tracks elicit the strongest response, but the set never hits a low point. The energy of the performers is constantly invigorating, and the show’s gangsterism and shout-outs to Vancouver weed never overpower its obvious reverence for the art of hip hop, exemplified by a spectacular (though dully received) a capella freestyle by Killah Priest.
The Wu-Block show is a proud testament to the East Coast and a reminder that Ghost and Sheek aren’t going anywhere. The D-Block and the Wu-Tang… could be dangerous.