So, this past weekend was the Voodoo Festival in New Orleans. The festival had quite a variety of musicians ranging from The Flaming Lips to The Cool Kids to Justice to Gogol Bordello. Aditya was lucky enough to be able to go to first night of the festival… which included the return of Eminem. Here’s his take on it. (All the photos you see were taken by Aditya when he was at the show.)
I should start this by saying that, for the purposes of this review, my name might as well be Stan.
Eminem has been absent from the touring circuit since Proof’s death. In fact, his appearance at the Voodoo Festival in New Orleans on October 30th was his first real show since he cut the European leg of his Anger Management 3 Tour due to “exhaustion resulting from dependency on sleep medication.”
Needless to say, I was excited. And so were the legions of other fans who braved hurricane-like conditions and total squalor for a chance to see Mr. Mathers return to the stage. The audience is who you would have expected it to be. It was mostly made up of 15-20 year-old white males with a certain affinity for New Era fitteds and oversized hoodies. However, this was New Orleans’ Voodoo Festival, and this was a chance to see one of the most controversial figures in music return to the stage so there were many different kinds of people sprinkled throughout the crowd. Generally speaking however, the crowd was filled with boys (men) who knew all the words to all of his songs. The inclement weather conditions dispersed those that were merely “just curious.”
Keep in mind that this concert was on the infamous Devil’s Night, and Halloween’s eve. Considering the topic matter of Relapse, it is pretty natural to conclude that the concert would have very dark themes and overtones, and the beginning did not disappoint. Eminem’s live band and DJ Alchemist came on stage wearing glow-in-the-dark skeleton suits at 9:30 sharp.
The lights went off and a giant HD screen displayed a message of the escape of a mental patient in the New Orleans area who had ingested large amounts of psychiatric medication. Then, there brief cuts of a remastered version of the “3 AM” video and the ominous drum roll yielded a refreshed and renewed Eminem dressed exactly as he was in the “3 AM” video, complete with bloody white t-shirt. After a stirring rendition of “3 AM”, “Hello”, and “Business”, Shady went off-stage for a costume change and came back with D12.
D12 performed their songs on Eminem albums as well as their hit songs (“Purple Pills”, “My Band”), and a performance of “Fight Music” that I was really looking forward to. Em has mentioned in numerous interviews that “Fight Music” is his favorite song to perform, but neither I nor the crowd was particularly moved. For some reason when they were performing, I just felt really, really old. As if I couldn’t believe that I used to like this music, and even more so, I started noticing how old the members of D12 actually were. Bizzare is a 33 year-old man who still comes on stage wearing a shower cap. Swifty came on stage looking a bit like a balloon dressed in a Fila sweatsuit. Kuniva looked like he was 40. A notable exception is Kon Artis AKA Mr. Porter who was one of the most enjoyable parts of the show. He has replaced Proof as Em’s on-stage hype man and held his own as a live performer.
The D12 portion of the concert was the natural lull at the midpoint of the concert as Em got the crowd back involved with “Kill You” that had active crowd participation. It was pretty chilling to hear thousands of people chanting the chorus to this. Em kept the crowd involved with a performance of “Cleanin out My Closet” complete with an obligatory “F**K YOU MOM!”
At this point, the concert took an ominous tone away from the horror-core theme towards a more focused and serious performance of his anthemic hits. “Superman” and “Sing for the Moment” were absolutely amazing to experience live with Eminem remaining on stage solely by himself and managing to keep the audience in the palm of his hand. He then followed with a performance of “Stan” where he performed all of Stan’s verses (but not his own) with no reference track. He changed his voice for the song, and it seemed like this was the only song that the audience stopped chanting the lyrics to just marvel at his ability to change his voice and become more meek yet make his words so captivating and powerful. This was followed with an absolutely amazing rendition of “Beautiful” that made me re-appreciate the song and really understand the sincerity that he feels. The line “one tough act to follow” live seemed to hit home with everyone in the audience. He closed his set with a half-hearted and super quick one-verse renditions of “We Made You”, “Without Me” and “The Real Slim Shady” and exited the stage abruptly with a “Thank You New Orleans.” The band remained on stage and the audience clamored for an encore. The lights came back on with flyover shots of the city of Detroit and the familiar piano of the beginning of “Lose Yourself.” Once the oh-so-recognizable guitar riffs came on, the audience erupted as Eminem rushed back on stage to perform the song of his career.
All in all, this was a “moment” for me and for every other loyal Eminem fan at City Park. He is equivalent (to us) to Madonna, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z, etc. He is a true icon and he performed like he missed it. Aside from the D12-induced lull, and obligatory performances of his top 40-radio material, it was a fantastic return to form. If you get a chance to see him: Do so.