GZA/Reverend Sound System- live review
Russian Tea Rooms

GZA/Reverend Sound System – live review

This is a classic aftershow.

In a see of cash ins that these sort of events have become this stands out a mile. The GZA aftershow is an event on its own and not some DJ’s playing a few tunes but an appearance from the moan himself ina really cool venue in the Manchester city centre.

We are in damp and dark bowels of a Russian tea Room in Manchester city centre. Outside the street is full of people just hanging. The unseasonably warm weather has done weird things to the British psyche and the city centre has turned into New York. The heat has dried out the dampness of the British spirit and everyone has gone native. It hasn’t dried out the dampness of the cellar though and the dank atmosphere, low level lighting and beat up PA somehow add together for the mystical and smoking atmosphere that is perfect for GZA or the Genius to play his after show set.

An hour before he had bigged it up at Moho round the corner and is here for a little extra. The backing tracks are distorting through the PA and the bass end is a rumbling really massive boom- it should not work but somehow it adds to the monstrous sound for the lyrically complex and gifted rapper to do his work.
GZA is a legend. The key solo breakaway from Wu-Tang Clan he has an amazing back catalogue, with one solo album, the US top ten,’ Liquid Swords’ being one of the greats of the form. Wu-Tang, themselves, are one of the best hip hop crews that ever existed with their atmospheric, plain weird and brilliant albums travelling further out there than many of their contemporaries. Their music packed imagination and a dark humour into its tripped out melange of fat beat and samples from obscure underground kung fu films and the cast of characters that made up the crew and their endless supply of great nicknames has become part of hip hop lore.

Wu-Tang broke out of the hip hop scene and have become respected in all genres as a groundbreaking musical force. They can be taken seriously as hip hop kings or as avant garde musicians and are talked about in hallowed whispers by many in the rock community.

Oddly they have always worked better on record. Their immense soundscapes take you on a trip and you can get lost in their music. Headphones on, eyes shut and you are in their strange world. A Wu-Tang album or one of the better solo spin offs was a film on its own- a long and strange trip that somehow could never work as well live.

GZA is a brilliant and gifted rapper but the sheer size and scale of the music that he is presenting makes live a tough call. The gig works brilliantly as one man, a mic and backing tracks delivering the juice- on that level it’s one hundred per cent. It’s just that Wu-Tang is a trip and a very personal film that shows in your own head, maybe perhaps it’s best taken in a different context live and enjoyed for what it is and GZA delivers an old school rap set in a packed grubby room, the atmosphere is electric and the performance faultless.

Support comes from the Reverend Sound System, who are currently two piece. The band seems to getting put on a side burner but still burn with an intense energy and their tunes are killer.

They have spent most of the year playing house parties and operating outside the system. Their honed down mix of hip hop, bassline, raga and rap has been moulded into a force of its own. They are perfectly built for the guerrilla raid gigs- a seething dank cellar is their environment and so is being on top of flat bed truck in the middle of an anti capitalist riot and they could be the sound of this meltdown summer if they still want it.

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


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