LiveDC: GZA w/ Killer Mike & Bear Hands @ The Howard Theatre
BYT at large | Oct 19, 2012 | 11:30AM |

All words: Paula Mejia — All photos: Cesar Olivares

Underneath the space-age lights of the swanky Howard Theater on Tuesday night, Wu-Tang’s GZA, Killer Mike and Bear Hands shimmered for an intimate and ecstatic audience.

The GZA @ The Howard Theatre The GZA @ The Howard Theatre

I walked in just in time to catch the tail end of Bear Hands’ set. Although it struck me as odd that they were opening for Killer Mike and GZA, it didn’t detract from the fuzzy indie-pop that buzzed throughout the theater. Especially with the implementation of the synths near the end of the set, Bear Hands hit their stride, receiving quite a few head bobs and applause.

The fuzziness dissipated completely once Killer Mike took the stage. Just him and an MC, he immediately announced: “I don’t make dance music, I make R.A.P!” Live, Killer Mike stalks across the stage, equally as interested as engaging the audience as making, well, killer rhymes. Instead of the stereotypical indifference that seems to separate rappers and their audience, Killer Mike broke that stigma entirely, putting on a show as casually as though it were just him and a handful of friends in the park.

The GZA @ The Howard Theatre

The most recent presidential debate, that very night, made a special debut throughout Killer Mike’s set and commentary, as most of his rhymes concerned freestyles about politics and paranoia. The crowd particularly got into the Outkast cover, but shit got real during the very last track. Jumping down from the stage, Killer Mike ended with “Kryptonite,” lit up a humongous joint, and then scurried off the stage. So…that happened.

Not long after, the lights dimmed, and the crowd, clutching Wu-Tang shirts and vinyl, went insane as GZA took the stage. Kicking off with “Duel of the Iron Mike,” GZA immediately jumped into the crowd and appropriately handed off the mike to Wu-Tang fans to complement the track.

The GZA @ The Howard Theatre

More an interactive experience than a tribute, GZA performed almost the entirety of Liquid Swords down with the crowd, with iPhones and Youtube videos abound capturing the absurdity. The entire time, I had to think: Is this actually happening? Is the GZA one foot in front me right now, in my face, rapping to “Cold World?”

While performing the entirety of Liquid Swords as promised, GZA interspersed his set with other Wu-Tang favorites, including standout “Shimmy Shimmy Ya,” right after a sizzling “Shadowboxin’”.

Inevitably, the album felt a bit incomplete without the vocal stylings and contributions of the rest of the clan, Method Man, RZA and Inspectah Deck in particular. Yet GZA, a showman at his finest, still proved that Wu-Tang Clan was, and never will be, something to fuck with.

The GZA @ The Howard Theatre The GZA @ The Howard Theatre The GZA @ The Howard Theatre The GZA @ The Howard Theatre The GZA @ The Howard Theatre The GZA @ The Howard Theatre

  • Killer Mike:

The GZA @ The Howard Theatre The GZA @ The Howard Theatre The GZA @ The Howard Theatre The GZA @ The Howard Theatre The GZA @ The Howard Theatre The GZA @ The Howard Theatre

  • Bear Hands:

The GZA @ The Howard Theatre The GZA @ The Howard Theatre The GZA @ The Howard Theatre