LOS ANGELES — Eminem performed an electrifying set at Activision’s E3 party on Monday night, crushing any doubts that he is truly back in the game after his long hiatus. The Detroit MC headlined a massive bill that included Usher, Will.I.Am, N.E.R.D., Jane’s Addiction, Chris Cornell, David Guetta, Deadmau5 and DJ Z-Trip.
Em’s set kicked off with his first surprise of the night at the Staples Center, with Travis Barker jumping behind the drums for an acrobatic drum solo. Em joined him moments later (flanked by D12’s Denaun Porter), taking the stage just before midnight. He was decked out in a black jacket, black jeans and a silver crucifix hanging around his neck.
With Em, Barker, Porter and a live band all onstage, the crowd was up on its feet right from the get-go. The six-song set began with “Won’t Back Down,” off of Recovery, which Em just announced would be released on June 21, a day earlier than originally planned . From that moment, there was an energy in the arena that could be felt from the floor all the way up to the luxury suites.
Eminem followed with a couple of his recent features — one from B.o.B’s “Airplanes (Part II)” and the other from Drake’s “Forever.” As Drake’s chorus blared, Eminem marched down the stage’s catwalk, chanting “Bounce, bounce, bounce.” He was clearly on his game, bobbing and weaving while he delivered his verses. All of this was punctuated by Barker’s thumping drumbeats, which made it feel more rock show than rap show.
After three songs, Eminem addressed his adoring crowd, shouting, “Los Angeles! What the f— is up? Make some motherf—ing noise!” As if he had to ask, Staples Center erupted in ovation.
Em then dedicated his next song, “Not Afraid,” to all of the fans that have stuck by his side over the years. His live band was joined by a full orchestra on both sides of the stage. If that wasn’t enough, later in the song, Eminem was joined by an entire gospel choir that numbered in the dozens.
Then Eminem sprung his next surprise. “Before I get into this next song,” he said, “I wanna bring out a very special guest.” After a few moments, Barbadian beauty Rihanna appeared onstage with a bright crop of candy-apple-red hair. The duo got right into “Love the Way You Lie” — another new song off the upcoming Recovery. Em and Ri had great chemistry onstage, taking turns sauntering down the catwalk and passing glances at each other throughout the performance.
As the song ended, the show seemed to be over. Eminem thanked the crowd and exited the stage. His band stayed on, however, and slowly started playing the opening notes of “Lose Yourself.” As the song built, Eminem stormed back onto the stage and the crowd (as if they could get any louder) exploded. As he ripped through the song, Porter served as the hype-man, and excitement continued to build until the end, when a shower of gold confetti rained down on the audience.