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Eminem Lollapalooza Reflections

The dust (and mud) has settled on Lollapalooza 2014 this weekend, yet everyday this week I’ve thought back to Eminem‘s headlining performance on Day 1 that saw him surprise the thousands in Grant Park with a special guest appearance from Rihanna. I had a feeling Chicago would be the perfect guinea pig for Em and Rihanna to do a dry-run of their collaborations for the Monster Tour. I don’t mean that in a demeaning way to my hometown because in fact, Rihanna’s appearance proved to be a special moment for Chicago. It was the first the two have performed together outside of an award show setting and the very first time Rihanna sang the hook for one of Eminem’s all-time pantheon songs “Stan”.

Point being: the timing of Lollapalooza was wonderful for the two to rehearse live for the upcoming tour and bring Rihanna to the Chi since The Monster Tour is not slated to come through. So, what worked and what didn’t? Let’s start at the top as Rihanna emerged from beneath the stage, singing her extended solo version of “Love The Way You Lie”. This worked. We were taking in the show from far enough away that you couldn’t tell who exactly was rising on stage until they put a close-up of Rihanna on the Jumbotron screen a full five seconds after she started singing. It was cool to experience the initial uproar from the crowd who saw it was Rihanna right away and then the secondary uproar of everyone around us watching the screen. It turns out we had good intel that my prediction would prove to be correct a few hours before the show, so I spent this moment watching the people around us to see if they would be genuinely pleasantly surprised. Success! They were.

But at The Monster Tour, you obviously already know you’ll be seeing Rihanna so how they present “Love The Way You Lie” will be interesting to note, given they went the surprise route in Chicago. I suspect they’ll save their first #1 hit single for the end of the show too, as opposed to Eminem wowing us all about a third of the way through his set. Rihanna’s solo version doubled as more time for her and a great buildup for when the beat and band kicked in for Eminem’s verses. The energy was at a high to that point in the set so I know I’m not alone in saying that Em and Rihanna delivered a smashing success of a performance with “Love The Way You Lie”.

So what about their second #1 hit single? The namesake of the upcoming tour as well, “The Monster” followed “Love The Way You Lie” and, maybe it was just me, fell a touch flat. I believe that had more to do with following up the more powerful song in general and that both “The Monster” and “Love The Way You Lie” have similar tempos. I suppose it was like watching a solid sequel with the highlight of The Monster’s performance being the start of Eminem’s second verse that had me immediately flashing back to the genius music video when the Jumbotron showed a closeup of Em performing at an angle where it was just him and a black backdrop behind him.

After this chill-inducing moment (one of many more I’ll get to below), I expected Rihanna to salute the crowd one last time for her brief but memorable surprise appearance. Besides, those are the only 2 songs Eminem and Rihanna have together so what else could they perform? It was then, moments after the stage went dark, save for eerie blue lights that I realized I made a rookie mistake in underestimating Eminem. Rihanna began singing the aforementioned “Stan” and chills began to set again as the crowd gradually turned on their cell phones to shed light above them that the stage’s spotlights were no longer doing. Ri-Ri actually has the perfect voice to both match the solemness of the iconic Dido sample and give the chorus a fresh twist. Hearing her finish the first rendition, combined with the guitars coming to life, hammered home that I was watching history. Thank God for the fan above with the powerful camera from the 10th row because the long song ended in a flash, leaving me wanting to watch that performance, and Eminem shout out Chicago in the second verse, again. Rihanna then left for good and Em proceeded with many more of his hits to follow. This sounds like a good time to recall his setlist.

Eminem Lollapalooza 2014 Setlist:
Square Dance
Won’t Back Down
3 AM
Business
Kill You
White America
Evil Deeds
Rap God
Marshall Mathers
Just Don’t Give A Fuck
Criminal
The Way I Am
Life In The Fast Lane f/ Royce Da 5’9″
Love The Way You Lie f/ Rihanna
The Monster f/ Rihanna
Stan f/ Rihanna
Sing For The Moment
Like Toy Soldiers
Forever
Berzerk
Till I Collapse
Cinderella Man
My Name Is
The Real Slim Shady
Without Me
Not Afraid
*encore*
Lose Yourself

After the initial rush of Eminem bursting out on stage, alongside his D-12 partner-in-crime hypeman Mr. Porter, I actually felt the first handful of songs lacked the extra level of energy that later on in the show would later prove. One of the highlights from the first handful of songs has to be the demented “Kill You” — the MMLP record with some of Eminem’s most ruthless lyrics that the whole crowd still knows 14 years later. Em cut the song short with some planned fake gunshots that admittedly startled me since I was looking away from the stage. “You can’t be having fake gunshots in Chicago!”, I exclaimed to anyone around me who cared. As you see, “White America” immediately followed — Eminem’s pulsating, politically charged anthem from The Eminem Show. The production is made for a live setting with crowd participation at a maximum to this point with fans waving their hands to the slow and steady beat.

When the set hit “The Way I Am”, it didn’t dip again for the rest of it. One of my top-tier favorites from Eminem has increased sentimental value now as this was the song we first saw one of Eminem’s guitarists rocking our Gowhere Hat on stage #Powerful! You see, in the hour before the set began, we linked up with longtime artist friend of ours, Curt Chambers — one of Eminem’s 2 guitarists on tour for the last 5 years. After our interview (coming soon), we also chopped it up with Eminem’s other guitarist who loved the hat so much he wanted to wear it that night. Given that we didn’t have a straight on angle to see the band in the back, we couldn’t see ‘Gowhere’ until both he and Curt were next to Eminem, which happened during “The Way I Am”. Hey, maybe you’ll see the Gowhere Hat tonight at The Monster Tour — keep an eye out ;)

#GowhereHat #Lolla swag on stage with @Eminem & @Rihanna #gowhereyoulove

#GowhereHat #Lolla swag on stage with @Eminem & @Rihanna #gowhereyoulove

In between “The Way I Am”, and the above-covered Rihanna cameo, was a cameo from Royce Da 5’9″. No surprise here as they performed the high-octane “Life In The Fast Lane” with the same on-stage chemistry they had last time I saw Eminem at Lollapalooza in 2011. Eminem’s most sentimental stretch of the set began with “Stan” and continued further with “Sing For The Moment” and “Like Toy Soldiers” when Eminem big upped the fallen Proof in the intro. For all the zany Slim Shady hit singles that reels us in, it’s Eminem’s serious side that I always rocked with 100% so this was my favorite stretch of the entire show. It was only missing “Mockingbird”, but we still had those zany singles to cover with time running close to 10pm.

Eminem upped the intensity with his song-stealing verse on 2009′s “Forever”. Quick aside: has there ever been a cooler first-listen experience than “Forever” in recent hip hop history? You had Drake, Kanye, Wayne, and a returning Eminem as the four you knew to expect, but you didn’t know what order it was coming in, and you didn’t know what Eminem you were going to get after some strange moments and deliveries on that year’s Relapse album. You know the story by now. Eminem delivered one of his most memorable verses, as evidenced by the crowd notably rapping every word in comparison to other Shady hits of the night, and in many’s opinion, has the verse of the song… which we wanted to see who had on that first listen. Needless to say, it was special, especially as Em went a capella for the smallest smidgen of time. MMLP2‘s lead single “Berzerk” followed, and to my surprise given the song’s polarity, the crowd, well, went berzerk. The energy was at a different type of high that the show hasn’t seen yet after these two songs and it carried over to the fan-favorite “Till I Collapse” with the late Nate Dogg sounding especially powerful over the loudspeakers.

Skipping ahead to the triumvirate of #1 lead singles, Eminem prefaced “My Name Is” to address the crowd and ask, “Chicago, can I take you back to when I used to get fucked up??”. The crowd went expectedly nuts for “My Name Is”, “Real Slim Shady”, and the na-na-na-na’s of “Without Me”, including the 40-year old mothers now all of a sudden directly in front of me, which absolutely made my night that much more memorable. With the music killed yet again, Eminem launched into the galvanizing anthem “Not Afraid” that I like individually, but realized I like 10x more in a live setting when you can really feel the song’s message resonate with the rabid crowd beneath Marshall Mathers. This brought me back to 2011 Lollapalooza in the best way. Finally, you probably would have guessed, Eminem retired from stage briefly to set up the encore of my favorite song OF ALL-TIME (!) — “Lose Yourself”. Eminem touring is usually few and far between, yet I feel like I’ve seen Eminem more than the 3 times he’s been in Chicago since 2005. Each time he closed with an encore of “Lose Yourself” that never fails to induce the chills. Alas, the perfect segue…

Top 5 Chilling Moments of Eminem Lollapalooza 2014

5. “Not Afraid” — Minor chills at the realization of how Eminem really connects with everyone in a live setting with this song. He’s a shining example of overcoming fears and adversity.
4. “Like Toy Soldiers” — Eminem harmonizing “Big Proof we miss you” at the beginning really affected this ‘stan’ of the late Proof (I was so sad that day he passed.)
3. “Till I Collapse” — The increase of camera phones captured Nate Dogg’s booming voice trailing off into a series of just the crowd’s claps to end the song.
2. “Love The Way You Lie” & “Stan” (tie) — Rihanna’s solo intro was just her, plus goosebumps. The surprise and overall chilling “Stan” was something to experience live.
1. “Lose Yourself” — Eminem, as somehow not mentioned above, was extremely active on stage showing agility and endurance that surprises you when you remember he’s 40. He saved the best for last as he leapt high into the start of the last chorus.

…and, since I had a really great perspective view of the fans in front of the stage…

Top 5 Crowd-Hands Moments of Eminem Lollapalooza 2014

5. “Business” — the first huge Dre beat that translated that way live with fans moving their arms up and down in unison.
4. “Real Slim Shady” — the fast, active hands during the transition to “Guess who’s back?”… the start of “Without Me”.
3. “Sing For The Moment” — hands swaying left to right for the moving chorus.
2. “White America” — the hands slowing up, rising and falling to match the pace of the eerie, booming beat.
1. “Lose Yourself” — last chorus, how can you not think of B. Rabbit in the last battle scene in 8 Mile?

To bring the post full circle, does anything from Eminem Lollapalooza 2014 foreshadow The Monster Tour starting tonight? I’ll take the politically correct, Yes and No. Given the widespread coverage of Rihanna’s surprise guest appearance with extra emphasis on her chorus for “Stan”, I would expect to see that again throughout the tour. But as this was an Eminem-only set, all of Rihanna’s songs were bundled together. I predict this not to be the case for The Monster Tour. Look for “Love The Way You Lie” to be the first collab they rock together with “The Monster” at the very end of the set and “Stan” somewhere in between. The possibilities are fun to guess, including that of any other songs Rihanna may sing the hook for… or, if I was them, stick to the “Lose Yourself” encore with Rihanna rapping the chorus with Eminem. Someone at the Rose Bowl, get back to me!