Hip-hop icons Wu-Tang Clan have kicked off their first tour since 1997 in Connecticut - to honour late founding member OL' DIRTY BASTARD.

The pioneering rapper collapsed and died in a New York City recording studio in November 2004 from a drug overdose.

The surviving eight members of the rap collective are determined their 10-date reunion tour will preserve his memory, although they admit performing the gigs without him will be heart-wrenching.

Group member GZA says, "It's going to be different in a sense. He isn't going to be there physically, but spiritually and mentally he still will be there.

"He'll be in our hearts and he'll be in the hearts of the crowd. It'll be great. It'll be a great tribute."

Some proceeds of the tour, which kicked off on Tuesday (07FEB06), will be donated to the late rapper's family.

It's not the first time the group have performed live since 1997 - the group reunited for one show in California in July 2004, and another in New Jersey in November 2004 - the night before Ol' Dirty Bastard died.