BUFFALO, New York For a few moments Thursday night at the Anger Management Tour kickoff, you couldn't help but wonder if Eminem was thinking, "I've created a monster, 'cause nobody wants to see Marshall no more."
The curtain was down and the lights on the stage were up, showing a set modeled after a carnival. It was five minutes before Slim Shady revealed himself to the nearly sold-out crowd. As the headliner, he'd heard openers Xzibit, Ludacris and a frustrated Papa Roach get rousing applause, but now, the crowd was booing profusely at the mere mention of Em's name.
Of course, that was because the people mentioning the rapper's name were, among others, Lynne Cheney and C. Dolores Tucker, who, in a seemingly endless succession of TV news clips, read prepared statements hurling mud on the Detroit MC with the speed of a Dwight Gooden fastball circa 1985.
The more the people on the three screens that were suspended in the air at the start of "The Eminem Show" scoffed at his music, the more vocally furious the
crowd became that somebody was badmouthing their champion. Em ended all
harsh feelings as he made his way onto the stage via a Ferris wheel, starting
his set with "Square Dance."
"People, it feels so good to be baaack," he said, stepping to the forefront
in a black ball cap and yellow T-shirt, flanked by his hypeman and D12
"Don't be scurred, 'cause there ain't nothin' to worry about," he exhorted to the
screaming crowd as he ran down the three runways that extended off the stage and
formed an "E" around two pits of people.
Em's set mirrored the maniacal genius of his latest album's music and theme.
In addition to the amusement ride, screens, and a huge tent that Em and D12
went in and out of throughout the night, there was a giant mouth full of
teeth as a backdrop, a platform above the tent where mixtape guru DJ Green
Lantern let his records spin, and a trampoline.
"Holy sh--," there goes Jermaine Dupri," Em joked at the beginning of his
follow-up number, "Business." Adding humor, another man wearing a top
hat and tails and about as rotund as D12 member Bizarre joined the
festivities, dancing with an open umbrella. Regardless of the extras of the
set, Em was holding true to his lyrics on the song: The spectators were
experiencing "hip-hop at its most purest" as the hungry MC prowled the stage
and moved the crowd.
The screens became the centerpiece again during "White America." An animated
video of the cut played, displaying, among other things, police stomping and
kicking a man and a poster of Uncle Sam pointing his finger that read, "I'll
Kill You." Down below, Em let out his bellicose calls of "White Americaaa/
little Eric looks just like this," while the clip played out, showing kids
that look strikingly similar to the animated Slim Shady wearing "I Am Eric" shirts.
When members of D12 started coming out for "When the Music Stops," life
imitated art: The beat cut off. Later, during "Fight Music," the track
abruptly conked out again.
"Buffalo, y'all are so hot, the system shorted out," Em explained.
The fans literally brought the heat minutes later, pulling out their
lighters. Two years after the song "Stan" dropped, the tune remains one of Em's
most popular everyone sang Dido's part in unison and swayed their hands along
with the MC.
After Obie Trice performed his verse from "Drips," Slim Shady let everyone know
he was no different from Puffy: He needs a girl.
"Ladies, I ain't married no more," he told the females, much to their delight. A
woman pleading with him to save her cut off his monologue. She was inside the
giant mouth and had only managed to get one arm out.
"I'mma tell you like I told Mariah, 'Bitch, you make me hurl," he responded
to her appeal, setting up "Superman." The girl, who turned out to be frequent Slim Shady back-up singer Dina Rae, made her way out the mouth on her own. However, as she sang her ad-libs to the cut, she looked strikingly like the curly-headed Mariah Carey who made her debut singing "Vision of Love."
The blond-haired rapper left "My Name Is" and "The Real Slim Shady" off the
playlist, and no one seemed to miss them. After all, his current theme song,
"Without Me," which served as his closer, is probably his most popular (at
least for 99.9 percent of the people in attendance).
"I hate you, Slim Shady," a voice boomed out the speakers as a man ran out onstage, tossing a myriad of insults at Em. Dressed in a red Adidas sweat suit and bearing a striking resemblance to Moby, the man started flying in the air. Not letting him get away, Obie Trice pulled out a fake shotgun and took aim at him. By this time the Moby doppelganger was out of eyesight, and then a dummy dressed like him fell to the ground and was consequently pummeled.
"Obie Trice, real name no gimmicks" started to blare through the speakers,
signaling the start of "Without Me." And just to make sure everyone got their
money's worth (and all that money he paid for those screens didn't go to
waste), Em performed a grand finale of "My Dad's Gone Crazy." A cartoon of
his daughter Hailie sang the chorus on the screen.
The MCs were the overwhelming favorites throughout the night. Xzibit got things started with a flurry of his bangers and unreleased material, including the first single from his upcoming Man Vs. Machine, "Multiply." Wearing all white, X, who's been out with Eminem on several tours, injected his dark humor into the end of his set.
"Where the ladies?" he asked, setting up the segue to his most popular verse. "I got two words for you ... not 'Love you.' Bitch please!"
Ludacris loves the ladies so much he has to bond with them everywhere he goes, as cited in "Area Codes," which rang through the arena. Cris' set was almost as big a spectacle as Slim Shady's. His DJ's booth was made to look like the front end of a Cadillac Escalade, and he had giant, three-dimensional cartoon characters of himself and the dog on his album cover onstage. Cris' call of the wild rivaled X's vulture-like yell.
"Oooh, oooh," he exclaimed, signaling "Saturday (Oooh! Oooh!)." "How you gonna act like I don't get loud," he rhymed, standing on the tip of the third runway. And while his solo hits like "Southern Hospitality" and "Ho" kept the crowd reciting his words, his posse cuts kept them in motion.
"Break some, break some, take some," he and his Disturbing the Peace clique ordered, performing one of their new songs. "Move Bitch" had to be the most energy-filled song of the night, as he and DTP had them throwing them bows. Many of the fans were still saying part of the song's chorus, "Get out the way," a few minutes after the ATL collective went backstage.
In between performances, the X-ecutioners extinguished some of the boredom, spinning and cutting records by everyone from Wu-Tang Clan to Freeway. But who really sits in their seats during breaks in the show, anyway? The concert staples of hitting concession stands and cruising for cuties were in full effect with the crowd.
The enthusiasm level went down a few notches for Papa Roach, the only act to use live instrumentation. The group, which wore all black and went with a propless set, was plagued by sound problems. Lead singer Jacoby Shaddix was visibly upset with having to use a confining microphone with a cord. He previously tried to amp things up by walking in the mosh-less pits, and even climbed into the stands. However, the "cordless piece of sh--" he threw down in disgust kept his words muffled.
"This is the first night, ladies and gentleman," he reminded the crowd. His words almost doubled as a pep talk to his crew that things would get better as the tour progressed.
The situation brightened a bit for Papa Roach toward the end of their performance. With the sound improving, they recovered with "Born With Nothing, Die With Everything" and their bread-and-butter finale, "Last Resort."
"Thank you and f---" Shaddix told everyone as they exited. You have to believe the latter words were for the soundman, whom the P-Roach frontman nicknamed "F---face" for the night.
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.