GZA, Auckland NZ, 2017

11th November 2017
The Studio, Auckland, New Zealand.

Review by Sarah Kidd. Photography by Doug Peters.

GZA performing live in Auckland, New Zealand, 2017. Image by Doug Peters.

Last here with (most) of his fellow members of Wu-Tang Clan in 2016 for what was sadly to be the last ever Ragamuffin festival, the crowd at The Studio last night were more than ready to welcome back GZA to New Zealand soil. However thanks to a few technical issues it appeared that the crowd would have to wait a little longer as the minutes slowly ticked by on the clock. Thankfully everyone last night were in good spirits and used the extra time to chill and regale their counterparts with stories of when and where they had first heard the clan.

Just before 11pm DJ Symphony – GZAs official touring DJ – came out on stage and apologised to the audience advising them all that it would just be a few more minutes and the man himself would be here. With some simple lighting and a hella bass intro, true to his word DJ Symphony introduced the man himself telling one and all to get their fists in the air and say “shit yeah” as GZA took to the stage.

Dressed in a simple grey and white striped shirt with black jacket GZA looked completely unassuming; but as he raised the mic to his lips and the words began to pour forth it was clear to one and all where his strengths lay. Immediately the air was filled with hands making the sign of ‘W’, the mixed but leaning heavily on the older side of the demographic crowd completely entranced; many fans grinning from ear to ear as they sang along to one of the early hits of the night ‘Duel of The Iron Mic’ off of GZAs 1995 solo album entitled Liquid Swords.

While the sound was a little off for the first couple of tracks, it quickly settled into a decent mix that complimented GZA rather than drowning him out. The stage was a simple layout with just the mixing desk in the middle from which DJ Symphony ran the operations while GZA delivered the mind-melding lyricism that has made him so popular with his fans. As a founding member of Wu-Tang, GZA has always been revered for his ability to steer away from what was often seen as the cliché side of rap lyrics and instead incorporate such topics as science into his music. Indeed due to his philosophies on a number of different topics he is often referred to as Wu-Tangs ‘spiritual head’.

Keeping the crowd hyped was the task of DJ Symphony and it was a job that he excelled in as he whipped the fans into a frenzy before dropping one of the first big hitters of the night ‘Wu-Tang Clan ain’t nothing to fuck wit’; GZA showing that he has lost none of his power as he shifted it into another gear spitting words into the front rows like bullets. Known for throwing in some acapella styles into his sets, GZA looked as if he was thoroughly enjoying himself as he delivered a portion of ‘Clan in Da Front’; shortly after which a fan tried to hand him a roach which GZA swiftly admonished him for – “You wanna throw some weed, throw some weed up on this motherfucker – don’t give me a roach” the crowd cheering him on as GZA asked them to “throw me some real shit”. Joint promptly handed over, GZA grinned as he lit it on stage, blowing out a huge cloud of smoke before handing it back to the fan who had gifted it to him. It was not the only gift he would receive tonight from his admirers; a drawing later being handed to him by an audience member well known amongst the locals of K’RD for his portraits of famous celebrities. It was a gift that certainly touched GZA as he referred back to it several times throughout the rest of the set – stating that he had never received anything like that before.

Showing no signs of slowing down almost three quarters of an hour into the night, GZA dropped another acapella track upon the fans – ‘Destruction of a Guard’ leaving many shaking their heads in disbelief at just how strong GZA’s game still is. Following it up quickly with ‘Reunited’ and the vibe in the room was so high energy that the very walls seemed to shimmer. But all good things must come to an end and an hour after taking the stage it was time for GZA to bid Auckland farewell but not before delivering one last classic Wu-Tang track; ‘Shame on a Nigga’ taking it out on a high. DJ Symphony leading the audience in a 1,2,3, toast of peace before both himself and GZA took a few moments to personally farewell members of the front row.

A classic night of hip-hop genius that will not soon be forgotten.

Were you there at The Studio for this old school hip hop show? Or have you seen GZA perform live somewhere else before? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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