Monday, October 16, 2006

Method Man Performs Own Stunts, Rocks the Crowd in Santa Cruz

For a short period of time during the mid-90s, Method Man was the hottest thing going in New York City and, essentially, rap music in general.

This was around the time that he had released his debut album, "Tical," and was busy becoming the unlikely sex symbol and all-purpose darling of the Wu-Tang Clan. He had a solo deal with Def Jam and was in the midst of a highly creative and profitable collaborative venture with another east coast behemoth, Redman. Their partnership would garner, in order, an album, a stoner comedy and a failed television series.

But the Method Man of the mid-90s was an up and comer full of potential for greatness. To some, Method Man didn't fulfill that potential, whether it was a string of lackluster follow up releases (every album after "Tical" managed to be more lackluster than the previous release) or the overexposure (dude almost became a fixture on TRL, posing for pics with the likes of Britney Spears).

Or maybe it was the simple fact that for all of his gritty, underground leanings early on, Method Man always has been and likely always will be a pop star.

So I set up all of this to come to my point: pop star or underground MC who never lived up to the hype, Method Man is a bonafied performer. As he put it, no MC out today works harder to give the fans what they want, and he proved this Friday night in Santa Cruz.

Performing for a packed house at The Catalyst, Method Man was a shotgun blast of energy and charm, holding the crowd in the palm of his hand and then, literally, allowing them to do the same for him. He played his classic joints, he was flanked by OG members of the Wu-Tang Clan, he cooed for the ladies, and even hung from the rafters. It was an impressive, if not unexpected, display of showmanship.

Getting the crowd into it early, Meth performed his older songs first, with joints like "Method Man," "Ice Cream," and "Bring The Pain," getting the crowd early. It was a smart move on his part, as veteran artist with a deep catalogue, he can afford to take such a risk without worrying about running out of material.

But it wasn't just the song selection that got the crowd; the way he prowled around the stage, his voice still booming with the scratchy bellow of a chain-smoker since birth. When he busted out the song "What The Bloodclot," with its chamber music piano keys and distorted bass shifts, it wasn't just the song that got you hype, it was the way Method Man swayed back and forth with the mic in his hand, in the zone, breath control and gusto in tact.

He brought out his fellow clan members for a hype rendition of "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nothing to #$%! Wit." Inspektah Deck and Masta Killah ran through their verses, and dozens of Wu-Tang hand signs went into the air.

Meth played the crowd some new stuff that sounded decent enough. When he asked the crowd "How many of y'all bought my new album," a large roar ensued. Judging by the poor album's poor sales, most were either lying or had downloaded it illegally, in my estimation.

Then again, judging by the way the crowd screamed and cheered mightily during his set, I wouldn't be surprised if most indeed had purchased the disc. And in supporting Meth, the rapper kept to his word that he would give the energy right back.

Meth ran into the crowd and performed numerous times, sometimes standing, and other times while being held up during a stage dive. He's a big dude, more than six-feet tall, but the way he surfed on the crowd while rapping was quite a site.

Then, in one of the truly great scenes at the Catalyst this year, Meth ran up on the balcony area, set himself over the railing edge and rapped from the second floor! The crowd went nuts, while dozens of camera phones (mine included) went up into the air to grab a shot. I've never seen anything quite like it.

At the end of his set, Meth cued up the beat to "Tha Rockwiler," the Cypress Hill homage he recorded with Redman. Again in the crowd, he hoisted himself straight up, standing tall, legs stretched, arms to the air, hands displaying the Wu-Tang symbol. It was pretty awesome. The crowd held Meth in the palms of their hands.

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