Lincoln Theatre, Raleigh
Thursday, Oct. 25

The first time I saw Wu-Tang ’s GZA perform his legendary 1995 solo effort, Liquid Swords, was a dozen years after its release at the 2007 Pitchfork Music Festival. Though the rapper held court in Chicago over a field full of fans, a near-dusk set time squandered his energy in such a huge expanse.

Last week’s packed show at the Lincoln was completely different. Despite The Genius’ needless but persistent complaints about the volume of his music and microphone, the rabid, bro-dominated crowd finished nearly every line of the emcee’s classic album for him, especially on “4th Chamber.”

GZA wove several cuts from the Clan’s seminal debut Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) and Wu-Tang Forever highlight “Triumph” into his set, while “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” served as the obligatory tribute to his late cousin and crew member Ol’ Dirty Bastard. From the moment he took the stage, the GZA commanded the attention of the room; many fans stayed past the rapper’s planned finale to ask for autographs on dollar bills, cigarette packs, driver’s licenses and even the shirts on their backs. The DJ, meanwhile, played Wu-Tang tracks that were treated like shared karaoke performances.

Opener Killer Mike reprised last month’s Hopscotch appearance with a similar but abbreviated set that pulled heavily from his hard-hitting, confrontational R.A.P. Music. Like the headliner, Mike’s set was stronger this time around, feeding from the audience of dedicated hip-hop heads. Even those unfamiliar with the red-hot rapper recognized his two most mainstream moments, lending a hand for his verses on the Outkast single “The Whole World” and “Kryptonite (I’m On It)” from his Atlanta supergroup Purple Ribbon All-Stars.

Killer Mike got a little political as he led into “Ronald Reagan” with less than two weeks to go before the 2012 presidential election. He criticized both candidates for comparing themselves to the dead president, who, Mike said, “was no good for the hood.” He encouraged the crowd to get out and vote, anyway.