Opening night of “Wu-Tang Clan: The Saga Continues … The Las Vegas Residency” Friday at The Theater at Virgin Hotels found the group looking loose and sounding taut – at least once some vocal mix issues were quickly fixed after liftoff.
It’s only four dates to start, so technically the shows are more of a special engagement than a residency. But the New York-bred Wu-Tang Clan is still making history as the first hip-hop act to claim a regular theater gig in Las Vegas.
The nine-piece collective hit the stage just past 9:30, first with RZA followed by the rest of the group for “Bring da Ruckus.”
RZA and the guys – GZA, Inspectah Deck, U-God, Ghostface Killah, Method Man, Raekwon, Masta Killa and Cappadonna – weaved among each other with ease on the lowest level of a three-tiered stage, with a pair of DJs tucked into their own altars behind them.
Above them, six dancers intermittently appeared while a nine-piece band featuring a drummer and percussionist played from atop the sleek set.
The group paced and swapped places onstage during the irresistible funk of “Da Mystery of Chessboxin’,” the dramatic Method Man and Ghostface Killah-led “Wu Tang: 7th Chamber” and the grimy punch of 1993’s debut single, “Protect Ya Neck.”
A highlight among the verbose raps and barbed chants was the low-key thumper “Can It Be All So Simple,” which samples Barbra Streisand’s “The Way We Were.” During the song, a female vocalist crooned while footage of the young Wu’s rolled in the background, concluding with a photo of former member Ol’ Dirty Bastard, who died in 2004.
While the crowd held up the official “W” symbol – thumbs touching and hands spread like the wings of a bird – and cheered for each member, the volume amplified when Method Man stepped forward on the green-hued stage to perform his self-named song.
Wu-Tang Clan crafted riveting visuals – the group in masks and hoods, anime, floating red and black W symbols – for the massive screen behind the stage. Meanwhile, the two large screens flanking the stage guarantee an ideal view whether in seats on the floor or toward the back in standing-only, general admission territory.
“Wu-Tang Clan: The Saga Continues … The Las Vegas Residency” follows last year’s worldwide N.Y. State of Mind tour and while much of the set list remains the same, the show offers a unique playground for the group.
The hip-hop icons perform again Saturday, as well as March 22-23.