It’s hard to tell exactly which Bones, Thugs, and/or Harmonies will arrive in Missoula Saturday. The Cleveland-based hip-hop group best known for its smooth harmonies and quick delivery has enough name recognition and fan loyalty to remain a strong draw on tour, but recent commercial disappointments and internal drama have sidetracked Krayzie Bone, Layzie Bone, Bizzy Bone and Wish Bone enough to raise some basic questions.
For starters, who’ll show up? Just two weeks ago at a show in Chico, Calif., only Layzie and Krayzie performed, and the latter showed up late. Bizzy has been kicked out and reinstated enough times to make even a die-hard fan’s head spin faster than one of the group’s rapid-fire rhymes. The last time all four performed together was at a benefit concert for Run-DMC earlier in the year, but even Layzie admitted it was a rare event. One Bone is sure not to make the Missoula gig—the fifth original member, Flesh-n-Bone, is in a Texas prison.
When whoever takes the Wilma stage, what songs will they perform? Fans surely hope the set list looks like an early years best-of, with cuts from the 1995 smash E. 1999 Eternal or the 1997 Grammy-winning single, “Tha Crossroads.” Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess. Bone hasn’t released an album together since 2002’s Thug World Order. For years the group has scattered in different directions to pursue fledgling solo careers. Just last month Krayzie released Gemini and Layzie and Bizzy collaborated on Bone Brothers. The rumor is that Koch Records has the four core members working on a new album, but no word on whether any songs are ready to test on live audiences.
One thing is beyond question with Bone’s arrival in town: The Midwesterners who emerged on the hip-hop scene 10 years ago with a flurry of chart-toppers are still prolific enough to deserve respect. The group was discovered by NWA founder Easy-E, and has worked with Tupac and Notorious B.I.G. They’ve sold more than 15 million records. Just a few years ago, when the band was touring to promote Thug World Order, the Wilma had to add a second show to meet ticket demand. Bone is not yet at has-been status, and with so many unknowns entering this weekend’s show, it could be worth the ticket just to see who shows up.
Bone Thugs-n-Harmony plays with Tech N9ne Saturday, March 19, at the Wilma Theatre. Tickets cost $25.