DETROIT — To toast the release of Relapse, his first new studio album in four and a half years, [artist id="502642"]Eminem[/artist] celebrated with a mini-concert and record-release party Tuesday at the MotorCity Casino in his hometown of Detroit.
Em’s 35-minute, eight-song set marked his first concert in three-plus years — and, by his own admission, his first performance since his well-documented struggles with addiction.
“This might actually be one of the best shows I’ve ever done,” the newly clean Em told the audience of more than 2,000. ” ‘Cause when I get offstage, I’m actually going to remember it.”
The rapper was sprightly onstage, opening with the blood-splattered “3 a.m.” and jerking his body to pantomime the song’s bobbing-and-weaving rhythms. Eminem’s manager, Paul Rosenberg, smiled and watched from the soundboard, taping the performance with a handheld video camera.
During the MySpace-sponsored show, Relapse‘s torch song (and probable next single) “Beautiful” became a full-on lighters-in-the-air, arms-swaying anthem. The stark “Underground,” meanwhile, found Slim Shady tossing off wordplay-heavy punch lines (“Hannah Montana prepare to elope with a can opener and be cut open like cantaloupe”) like he did in the battle raps re-created in “8 Mile.” The show also saw run-throughs of “Insane” and “We Made You,” as well as snippets of “Crack a Bottle” and “Hello.”
Em’s [artist id="1162870"]D12[/artist] cohort Denaun “Kon Artis” Porter acted as the MC’s hype man throughout the show, taking on the role formerly filled by Em’s best friend, Proof, who was shot and killed at an afterhours club in Detroit in 2006.
“I was a little bit nervous coming out there because, as we all know, I didn’t have my right-hand man tonight,” Em told the crowd. “I’m talking about Proof, in case you didn’t know. Man, I f—ing miss him.” He then instructed the audience to “make some noise” for his fallen friend, “loud enough so he can hear y’all.”
During a show-closing encore of “Lose Yourself,” Eminem was joined onstage by D12 bandmates Bizarre, Kuniva and Swift, marking the group’s first onstage appearance together since Proof’s death.
In attendance at the concert were R&B singer Dwele, Eminem collaborator Trick Trick and Em’s “8 Mile” co-star Omar Benson Miller, who hosted a rap battle during the show’s warm-up.
Fans were given tickets to the concert through a number of promotions, including several Twitter-hosted scavenger hunts through Detroit on Tuesday. On Monday, fans such as Dave West, 28, of Livonia, Michigan, lined up for hours at suburban independent record store Record Time to get their hands on tickets.
“It was awesome, man. It was the first time these songs had been performed live, so this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said West, who waited in line for 16 hours to score tickets to the show. “You’re never going to see Eminem at a small venue like this ever again.”
“It was amazing. It was short, but it was really good,” said 20-year-old Ashley Lennon of Royal Oak, Michigan, who won tickets on the radio the day of the concert. “I love Eminem. I couldn’t imagine not being at one of his shows.”
Alchemist, Eminem’s DJ, said everything during the concert felt “real natural.” “We had a lot of fun up there,” he told MTV News after the show. “It feels great. It’s good for Detroit, and it’s good for creativity in general to have Eminem back in the form he’s in right now. He’s in tip-top shape.”