"No disrespect to none of y'all," Raekwon told the audience during the Wu-Tang Clan performance at Coachella on Sunday night, "but we came to steal this shit tonight."
At the tail end of part one of a Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival that was relatively scarce on hip-hop, the reunited and re-energized Wu-Tang Clan made up for the lack of a headliner like Jay-Z, Kanye West or Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg at the 2013 fest. Slotted on the Outdoor Theatre stage against the back-to-back combo of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and Red Hot Chili Peppers on the main stage, the legendary rap collective tried to, as Rae suggested, steal the final evening of the festival with over an hour of hits from "Enter The 36 Chambers" and the various members' solo catalogues.
Taking the stage with an orchestra at their backs and heavy winds kicking sand in their faces, the Wu members lit the dynamite with "Protect Ya Neck," "Bring Da Ruckus" and "Shame on a N---a," all from their two-decade-old debut album. The Wu then hopscotched across the various staples of its time-worn live show, including a smattering of solo hits like "Bring The Pain" and "Duel of the Iron Mic," RZA diatribes about the power of music, touching Ol' Dirty Bastard tributes set to "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" and "Brooklyn Zoo," and a smoldering "Triumph" to cap off the evening.
The biggest and best surprise of the performance came when Redman -- who turns 43 this week -- strolled onstage to manhandle "Da Rockwilder" with his "Blackout!" partner Method Man. He later returned so that the entire crowd could wish him a happy birthday.
But more than the song selections or guest appearances, the Wu demonstrated an easiness within their ranks that was encouraging for diehard fans to witness.
After the group's last album, 2007's "8 Diagrams," was mired in creative disagreements that prevented the full group from touring together, all seems tranquil within the Clan as they gear up for the 20th anniversary of "36 Chambers." The MCs still have their personal agendas first and foremost -- Ghostface Killah, wearing a Wu-Tang shirt and GFK hat, ended the set by telling the crowd to purchase his "12 Reasons To Die" album when it hits stores on Tuesday -- but the fact that he, Raekwon and the RZA were all playfully interacting during the performance is a good sign for WTC as it gears up for its sixth studio album.
The RZA asked the audience if it was ready for "one more" new Wu-Tang album, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of their landmark debut.
If the Wu-Tang mastermind is suggesting that "A Better Tomorrow," due out in July, is the group's swan song, then all-hands-on-deck Wu-Tang performances like the Coachella set need to be savored even more dearly. It's not every day the combined forces of Method Man, GZA, Inspectah Deck, Ghostface Killah, Masta Killa, Raekwon, RZA, U-God and Cappadonna form like Voltron, and by doing so at Coachella, the mighty Wu stole the show.