GZA, O2 Academy
STRAIGHT from the slums of Shaolin via Staten Island and, probably, Park Square roundabout, hip-hop grandmaster GZA arrived on stage an hour late to be welcomed by an audience of devotees whose anticipation was simmering with impatience.
A founding member of the Wu-Tang Clan, the man also known as Genius is the voice behind some of the finest moments in rap. Among them, solo album Liquid Swords is a hip-hop classic.
That he played a headline show lasting barely 40 minutes in this more intimate of the Academy’s two venues doubtless left a crowd with mixed feelings.
With a set of best-known solo cuts complemented by a collection of Wu-Tang rhymes (some not his own), there was enough to tick off the checklist and keep heads bobbing appreciatively to the beats.
But on the night, it was hard to shake off the feeling that he’d just phoned it in, such was the ease with which he delivered his rhymes – a reflection of his mastery perhaps, but an ease that belies the cerebral intensity of his recorded work.
Despite using a glut of white towels throughout the set (thrown to gleeful fans), it felt like he never really broke sweat.
That said, many, myself included, left this show satisfied at having seen a true hip-hop legend perform some of his finest work live. And for that to take place in Sheffield is a treasured rarity in itself.