Rapture: Eminem, Kendrick Lamar Etihad Stadium, Melbourne Feb 19, 2014 Tens of thousands of Melburnians donned their short-longs and long-shorts, laced their trainers, gave their sides a fresh trim and swaggered into the 50,000-capactiy Etihad Stadium on Wednesday night to hear the original rude boy, Eminem. Placed as the cherry on top of a mini hip-hop festival, which included M-Phazes, 360, Action Bronson, J. Cole and line-up centrepiece Kendrick Lamar, the highly anticipated 41-year-old Eminem (five years older than the 36-year-old Moby that was told he was too old and to let go) stormed the blocks like the homicidal lunatic he tells us he is. Firstly – Kendrick Lamar: backed by a cavalry of drums, bass, electric guitar and keys, his scenechanging catalogue was polished, sophisticated, organic and rivalled the musicianship of the band that followed. With the assistance of a synthetic orchestra, the live sound was full and clearly demonstrated the layers of musical influence throughout Kendrick’s work. The turnt-up fashionista (sleek in designer khaki coat, tube socks and Nikes) was a pro and hit everything. Crowd favourites ‘Swimming Pools (Drank)’, ‘Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe’ and title track ‘m.A.A.d City’ from major-label debut album good kid, m.A.A.d city were presented perfectly, but the highlight was the concluding song of the set, ‘The Recipe’, all in all justifying Kendrick’s rising superstar status. During my formative years of discovery – namely ages 15-17 – I spent countless hours saturated by Marshall Mathers. With memories of controversy from 1999’s release ‘My Name Is’, I became properly acquainted with Eminem in 2002 through The Eminem Show when it completely infiltrated my life and I developed a borderline obsession. He was raw and angry and sympathetic for the right people. He got under my skin and made me feel pissed off and united with those around me. I thought ‘Superman’ was erotic with its groaning and heavy breathing sighs. I was touched by ‘Hailie’s Song’, hated his mum and justified almost everything he said in a blissful haze of rhythm while swigging vodka out of the bottle like a total badass. Because that’s the thing about Eminem: he has a sometimes terrifying talent of getting you on side so you feel like his lyrics were your idea, his lifestyle your own. My love affair with Eminem continued for about 18 months until I graduated from college and moved overseas. Since then, my contact has been limited – mainly to radio-hit collaborations with Rihanna. So, on Wednesday night, it felt a bit like running into a particularly influential first love, and looking around, it seemed that feeling was echoed throughout the stadium. Unsurprisingly, The Marshall Mather LP2 was featured, with the rapper bursting out of the blocks with ‘Survival’ to a crowd that looked beside themselves to see this self-proclaimed rap god in person, and backed up by D12 recruit Mr Porter, whose main job seemed to be MC but dropped more than one awkward, momentum-halting clanger. Porter had, however, discovered the beauty of yelling “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!” at a stadium of excited Australians – and did so twice. Eminem – along with a band of two drum kits and a Dido/Rihanna-imitating female singer that was stuck away in the back and remained nameless – presented a fairly balanced set of old school tracks among the showcase of his latest album. He seemed to captivate a drooling mass of crotch-grabbing, feet-shuffling Aussies for the majority of the show, and his rhymes were tight. However, the decision to jam his best work (in my opinion) into medleys of three 60-second versions was disappointing. Sure, his decade worth of albums present a long, full catalogue, but in a set that went for just over 80 minutes, it seemed unnecessary that ‘Stan’, ‘Sing for the Moment’ and ‘Like Toy Soldiers’, and then ‘My Name Is’, ‘The Real Slim Shady’ and ‘Without Me’ were squished together. From the new album, ode to the nineties, ‘Bezerk’, was definitely a highlight, as was “Rap God”, showing off Eminem’s super-fast vocal-stylings; ‘The Monster’ was a fun novelty, but seriously lacked Rihanna. In a stroke of genius, Eminem made his performance of ‘Love The Way You Lie’ all about the performance of the ‘ladies’ from the audience – who loved it. The bone-structurally-blessed Marshall asked, “Are there any ladies here tonight?”, and in return was confronted with maybe the largest group of screaming orgasms the supposed sex god may have witnessed at once (or maybe not). When he lifted his shirt to reveal a tidy set of tattooed abs, the amount of sound from the aforementioned ladies made me see a bright white light. And it was this kind of fervour that permeated his show; the reaction from the formation of pulsating bodies, in Eminem uniform, moving together in a solid foundation. The audience was stimulated by bright lights, videos replicating violent video games, unnecessarily loud freak noises and then collectively told to flip the bird. The crowd became an army. Which would’ve been fine, but despite my adolescent romance with Eminem and his obvious talent and passion, his lyrics are full of derogation. ‘Faggot’, ‘slut’, ‘hoe’ are commonplace, and the violence is extreme, particularly towards women. That’s hard to ignore in the name of music, or in the name of anything, particularly when he inspires such riot-like love. All in all, the raw, fierce energy that was so prevalent when Slim Shady first penetrated the ears of lost youths seemed dull, and with the exception of ‘Bezerk’ and ‘Rap God’, this new show, with the constant enthusiastic stoking of MC Mr Porter (“Melbourne, you are muthafucking craaaaazy!!”), felt more like an entertaining and spectacular trip down memory lane rather than something for future investment.
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