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Photo by Thomas Johnson

Ghostface Killah passes through Calgary like apparition in the night

By Thomas Johnson, July 6 2018 —

The most prolific swordsman of the fabled Wu-Tang Clan made a pit-stop in Calgary Thursday, coinciding but unaffiliated with the start of Stampede. A little before 1 a.m., Ghostface Killah stepped onto the Marquee stage in full Chicago Bulls regalia, brim low on his brow. He jumped into his verse on mafio-standard “Ice Cream,” the crowd his word-for-word echo. He dove into breakneck renditions of classics in his back-catalogue like “Cherchez La Ghost,” “Mighty Healthy” and “Incarcerated Scarfaces.” He led the crowd in a stirring rendition of Lauryn Hill’s “Killing Me Softly.” He raised hairs with his “4th Chamber” verse and emphatically rapped every word to dear Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s verse in “Da Mystery Of Chessboxin’.’” Halfway through, two concert-goers were invited onstage to rip Method Man and ODB’s turns in “Protect Ya Neck.”

The show began with such promise. Immediately before inviting the aforementioned guests on stage to handle the auxiliary verses, Ghostface made a plea to the crowd — “C’mon. You’re repping Canada. We don’t get up here that often.”

At rap shows this far north, particularly for legacy artists of Wu-Tang stature, the crowd always runs the risk of being at a disconnect with the performer. Unfortunately, the promising energy present in the second half of Ghost’s showing suffered a distracted crowd — call it Stampede malaise — and after 45 minutes and a failed Al Green sing-along, the mob seemed to have lost interest. There was something deeply upsetting about seeing Ghost, arguably the greatest storyteller rap has ever seen, seemingly at a loss with a crowd intent on capturing that elusive perfect snap.

After a sustained lull, Ghost called it a night, and the concert came to an abrupt end. As he slouched off-stage defeated, it didn’t seem like he was given much reason to come back.

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