Fresh off an appearance at VH1’s Hip Hop Honors, founding Wu-Tang Clansman Ghostface Killah made a shambolic appearance at Velvet Jones last Saturday night. Apparently battling some sort of flu, Ghost basically turned his show over to Cappadonna and other members of Theodore Unit, as they worked their way through a couple solo numbers and a few Wu-Tang classics, including a bizarre “cover” of “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” that featured the audience rapping ODB’s entire verse while Ghost and Cappadonna looked on approvingly.
Given Ghost’s depleted state – he wandered out after Cappadonna finished a few songs, looking tired and extremely unenthused to be here, then asked the crowd to be his “Duracell,” although this writer speculates that a good night’s sleep would have been much better than asking a bunch of extremely drunk people to act like a battery) – it’s unsurprising that his performance was as lackluster as it was. He spent most of the show skulking around the back of the stage, more than willing to allow Cappadonna to steal the show with his ridiculously awesome hockey goalie mask, which lent him the air of a serial killer whose M.O. involves spitting gangster rap at victims until they collapse from boredom at waiting for Ghost to finally rap a bar or two.
Ghostface couldn’t even muster the energy to grind with the groupies that made their way onstage. Although on this point, I don’t blame him: With the exception of one girl – who fled the stage like a crime scene after Trife Da God whispered something in her ear – the onstage dancers were either obese to the point of hilarity or dancing so awkwardly that it made me question my own taste in Ghostface. If he can’t even get some decent groupies to his show in Santa Barbara, then I’m very sorry for Ghostface, but maybe he needs to rethink this whole solo career thing. I’m allowing for the possibility that the groupies are the real source of his energy, and that they were so lacking in enthusiasm that he, much like his namesake Tony Starks, died a metaphorical death onstage without the proper motivation.
For his part, Cappadonna moved the crowd admirably, which made it seem a lot more like a Cappadonna show with a short featured performance by Ghostface Killah. The highlight of the show came when Cappadonna waded through the crowd, still rapping, which is an experience that is usually reserved for acoustic indie acts that like to “play to the fans” and backyard shows so insignificant that the police don’t even hassle them. He also performed his way gamely (along with Theodore Units) to a kind of medley of Wu-Tang hits.
When Ghostface actually did rap, his flow was tight and concise, and he maintained excellent breath control. Maybe those two or three songs were all the strength he could muster, and he would have totally fallen apart should he have attempted a longer set, but I would have appreciated the effort. Overall, a wildly disappointing concert from that standpoint, although overall, it was a rap show that approached decency, despite unbelievable obstacles — like the headliner barely even showing up onstage.