When Method Man surfaced on the hip-hop scene as a member of the Wu-Tang Clan, he was a dynamic presence who brought equal parts malice, menace, and mischief to the group. He had a wicked sense of humor, and his grimy take on the ways and means of the street was original and alluring.
Over the past few years, though, Meth has turned into a blunted-out cartoon figure and a pale imitation of his former self. His new solo record, "Tical 0: The Prequel," has been delayed, and he's mostly been on the down-low when it comes to hip-hop. Instead he's been shilling underarm deodorant in commercials and starring in bad stoner films with his partner in rhyme, Redman. Now the two are scheduled to be featured in a sitcom. That's a long way from his seminal Wu-Tang years.
So it was unclear which Method Man was going to turn up at Avalon on Wednesday night. Judging from his haphazard 40-minute set, it does seem as if he needs to stop reading scripts and start taking the rap game seriously again if he's going to regain his credibility and stop squandering his immense talent.
Showing up on Wu-time -- that's two hours late -- the MC hit the stage dressed in white, and moments into the set he stopped abruptly and said to the crowd, "I know you've been to shows here before, and what I want to know is: Does it always sound like this?" He proceeded to lead the audience in a chant (in words we can't print) denouncing the sound man, and then continued despite the muddy vocal mix. Not a good way to begin, by any means.
The Staten Island native punctuated each song with the sound of breaking glass, but it would have been nice to see Method Man break a sweat instead. He would begin a song, run with a couple of verses, and cut it off no more than 90 seconds later.
Songs such as "Judgement Day," "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing Ta F' Wit," and "Method Man" were all delivered with the same nonchalance, and there was no chance for any momentum to be sustained. Midway through the set he coasted through two abbreviated versions of songs from his new record, due May 18, but they barely registered.
Only infrequently did the unpredictable Method Man show up, as he caught security off guard by venturing out to the side bars of the venue and glad-handing members of the crowd before returning to the stage, only to take a dive and body surf. But those off-kilter moments were offset by cliches such as dividing the audience into sections and seeing which could be the loudest. That may work for the likes of Ja Rule, but for a proud member of the Wu-Tang? Please.
At the end of the encoreless show, Method decided to take off his sneakers and throw them into the audience. That was the most he gave the crowd all night.
New York's MIMS opened the night with a 15-minute set that bordered on the inept. It was perfunctory, rote rap that lulled the antsy crowd to sleep.