GZA live at SWX - Bristol Live Music Review

Posted on: 2018-09-01

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GZA grows into Bristol show with weighty performance of Wu Tang classics.

It's a popular opinion of hip-hop shows - even among some of the most devoted fans - that they have a tendency to lack a proper punch that you get from recorded music, particularly when the artist in question is performing an album that was recorded 30 odd years prior. Having now reached the grand old age of 52 and approaching the 25th birthday of his seminal 1995 album, GZA would have been forgiven for losing some of the energy and toughness that made him such an integral figure of the Wu-Tang Clan in their early days. But, on Saturday night at SWX in Bristol, this was far from the case.

GZA pausing between tracks at SWX on Saturday night.

Anticipation was huge among the sell-out crowd before GZA took to the stage, and rose still as the instantly-recognisable Shogun Assassin sample and intro to Liquid Swords' title track rose through the club's speakers. As he came out, the crowd erupted for the Wu-Tang originator as he got down to business, breezing through Liquid Swords and Duel of the Iron Mic, taking care of Inspectah Deck and ODB's verses on the latter with ease.


But, after the excitement had died down slightly when the show was two or three tracks in, it seemed to me like the show was in danger of becoming 'just another date on the tour', with GZA coming across as slightly disinterested, seeming as though he might not be able to ramp the energy up again. The first 36 Chambers track of the night, Da Mystery of Chessboxin', soon blew that theory out of the water.

GZA joined the crowd for a couple of tracks midway through the set.

Minutes later, GZA delivered the most poignant moment of the night as the DJ cut the music after the introduction to Ghostface Killah's verse (if you know, you know). Chiming in in place of the music, he addressed the audience for the first time with a slight grin drawn over his face. "I like that part. That's the apex of the whole fuckin' song".


That seemed to be something of a turning point for the whole night, the first nod to the Wu-Tang of old, as he quickly grew into the show and blasted through some more of the album. He also threw in a few more crowd-pleasers throughout the set, including Clan In Da Front and Protect Ya Neck, even jumping into the crowd for a couple of tracks which, given his age, certainly wasn't something that anyone expected. It was quite weird listening to GZA rapping the other members' lines, particularly ODB's, but he did it with ease and, to be fair, it would have been a lot weirder if he hadn't.

The Mouse Outfit put on a huge performance while warming up for GZA.

The rest of the night went off, with GZA understandably slightly out of steam following his in-crowd antics but proving to everyone that Liquid Swords is one of the hardest albums to come out of the Wu-Tang era. Props also have to go to Manchester collective The Mouse Outfit who provided support on the night, getting the crowd going with the help of an accompanying live band and some of their best-known tracks, including the easygoing Sit Back and funk-laced Blaze It Up.

The crowd show their appreciation for The Genius at the end of his set.

On the whole, GZA's solo performance was a real slow burner, raising fears early on that the night might end up a bit of a washout. But, armed with a respectably high energy level and the strength of the Wu's back catalogue, The Genius left on a high, his place among the upper echelon of hip-hop's golden generation firmly solidified among all of us in the crowd.

Article by:

Matt Robson

Having moved to Bristol from Cornwall in 2015, Matt graduated from UWE with a degree in Journalism in 2018. He's keen on a wide variety of musical genres, as well as taking an interest in art and illustration, producing his own work in his spare time. Matt makes the most of Bristol's diverse nightlife and attends gigs and club nights regularly. Get in touch via email at matt@365bristol.com.