The scenic southern Appalachian town of Asheville, North Carolina, is a long way from the dank housing projects of Staten Island, New York, and Newark, New Jersey, that gave birth to legendary MCs Method Man, Redman, and Ghostface Killah, but the raucous response by the not-quite-capacity crowd at local club the Orange Peel seemed to make the crew as comfy as if they were puffing blunts on a childhood friend’s sofa.
Perhaps it’s the historic, increasingly bohemian town’s widespread rep for primo locally grown weed that enticed the trio to kick off their 20-night, cross-country summer tour here. Meth and Red are supporting Blackout! 2, the refreshingly jovial sequel to the duo’s platinum-selling 1999 original Blackout! team-up. And Ghostface is gearing up for the release of his next Def Jam joint, The Wizard of Poetry, slated for later this year (featuring the lively, just-leaked track, “Baby,” with Raheem DeVaughn.
Ghost opened up, congratulating Meth and Red on their reunion, and performing a retrospective set that leaned heavily on crowd-pleasing, ’90s-era Wu-Tang faves like Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” and “Ice Cream” (from he and Raekwon’s classic collabo Only Built 4 Cuban Linx). He also took a preachy set-break to flay current radio programming and declare that he’s “not the only one who thinks the music today is bullshit,” imploring us to listen to more Nas, Slick Rick, and GZA. But for the most part, Ghost acted as dutiful hypeman, even putting aside the mic after about an hour to play oldies-spinnin’ DJ and dance along happily to the Pharcyde’s “Passin’ Me By” and Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.”
The crowd was fully amped by the time Method Man and Redman jumped on stage to the familiar, bumpin’ beat of the first album’s undeniable hit single, “Da Rockwilder,” and that energy didng’t flag as a seamless mix of tracks from both Blackout! albums, as well as older Wu bangers, followed. The new songs held up surprisingly well-“A-Yo” inspired a nearly deafening singalong, and the venue’s wooden floors swayed under the weight of bodies bouncing along to the Dirty South beat of “City Lights” (minus UGK). However, it wasn’t until Meth’s refrain of “Roll that shit, light that shit, smoke it” from 2006 solo track “4:20” that he felt the room was sufficiently crunk to inspire the first of many stage dives.
Masters of crowd control and stagecraft, the veteran twosome demonstrated almost telepathic chemistry as they stomped around trading hoarse, blunted-out verses, while choreographing the audience through energetic screams, claps, and jumps. They were assisted by two DJs and a revolving crew of junior MCs, including birthday boy Street Life. Conspicuously absent from the extended posse was Ghostface, who didn’t come back onstage even for the old Wu-Tang songs.
The show concluded with a tribute to both Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Michael Jackson, highlighted by Redman leaping into the crowd as “Thriller” throbbed in the background. The end of the performance seemed to signal the beginning of a long bacchanal for these late-thirtysomething party animals, with Meth inviting everyone to the after-party at a well known local hotel. “Only for the ladies, of course,” he quickly clarified. “Let’s be real-we don’t party with dudes after midnight.”