Restless Natives: Ghostface Killah @ St Luke's, 13 May

Live Review by Katie Hawthorne | 16 May 2016

“I want to see ONE THOUSAND PHONES,” bellows ol' Ghost with regal expectation, larger than life under St Luke’s stained glass windows. “I’m not kidding. Put them UP.” The converted church is packed to its rafters with sweaty, Wu-apparelled punters brandishing their smartphones – it may not hold the capacity Ghost is demanding, but he looks more than satisfied by the frantic response he and his crew, headed by Wu affiliate Killah Priest, are receiving.

This night started out very differently, though. Law Holt’s earlier slot, like the headliner’s own, was built on attitude – but via understated drama and dry ice, rather than bravado. Law stood centre stage, solemn and statuesque, brandishing a voice that could move mountains; flanked by the identical twin Soho Sisters, the set mixed eerie harmonies with drone beats, left-field experiments and hushed pauses. Far removed from your typical hype/support slot.

The clock’s well past 10pm by the time Ghostface Killah shows. A roadie endlessly readjusts piles of towels under showers of booing. The congregation is restless, drunk and tense. Another guy emerges from backstage, and the room hushes with expectation – but he’s only here to pop a packet of Walker’s Ready Salted on the table. When Ghost finally throws open the stage door, the bass is painful and Priest yells lyrics totally undecipherable – for a couple more minutes, we hang on the brink of disaster. Then Bring Da Ruckus crackles into being, and the atmosphere flip-reverses.

Ghost cruises through certified favourites, from Can It All Be So Simple through Chessboxin’, ODB’s Shimmy Shimmy Ya to Toney’s own Mighty Healthy – a nostalgic trip and double-punch reminder of his legendary influence. Everybody’s body is partying hard, but minds are truly lost when the crew pick out three Wu nerds to take verses on Protect Ya Neck; a tiny man from the Gorbals slays it, and the room explodes. From there on out, via C.R.E.A.M. and a bizarre Prince tribute, Ghost layers cement on the fact that he – and his work – will always hold victory lap status.