It's one thing to produce a legendary concert, it's another for it to actually go down without a hitch. Jay-Z and Eminem set the bar pretty high for themselves back in May when they announced they'd be performing two nights of stadium shows in each of their respective hometowns. That's literally months of anticipation, and anything could have gone wrong during that time.
But according to early reports, last night's show at Detroit's Comerica Park was nothing short of historical.
"What [Detroit] got was an evening that may well go down as a milestone for hip-hop," Brian McCollum wrote in USA Today. "Rock 'n' roll has its enduring concert superstars, its Springsteens and Stones. But for hip-hop — whose live legacy has been comprised mostly of flash-and-burn young acts and retro-circuit oldies — Thursday's confident, high-quality production represented something unique. It was loud, resounding evidence that hip-hop can do the larger-than-life thing, too."
Aside from the evening being momentous for hip-hop culture, it was also a return to form for one of Detroit's native sons. "Eminem set out to confront his past demons, put them to rest and claim a victorious and potent present," Gary Graff wrote at Billboard.com. "[H]e largely did during an exhaustive, guest-filled 100-minute performance at Detroit's Comerica Park that spanned his entire recording career with full or partial performances of 33 songs."
At Spin.com, Chris Handyside wrote, "Both men stepped up huge with a one-two punch of sets that over four hours encapsulated the hip-hop flavors of their cities and pop music in general. For his part, Jay was at ease delivering a catalog of career-spanning crowd-pleasers from 'The Dynasty' to 'Hard Knock Life' to a majestic 'Empire State of Mind' ... Jay is, simply, a rock star."
But according to Handyside, for all the spectacle Jay's show had, it was merely an alley-oop for Em to slam-dunk the night away. "This was Eminem's night, after all was said and done," he said.
At the MTV Newsroom blog, Kyle Anderson compared the night's festivities, complete with its revolving circus of guest performers — Dr. Dre, D12, 50 Cent, Lloyd Banks, Drake, Young Jeezy and Memphis Bleek — to the Band's 1976 retirement concert, "The Last Waltz."
"[T]he cameos were piling up like the junker cars that lined Em's set," Adam Graham wrote in The Detroit News. "Drake joined him for 'Forever,' returning a favor for when Em appeared at the Toronto rapper's hometown performance earlier this summer; 50 Cent and Lloyd Banks came on for mini-set of 50 Cent songs, including 'Patiently Waiting' and 'In Da Club'; and Dr. Dre appeared — wearing a Proof shirt, no less — and did a small set of songs with Em, including 'Nuthin' but a G Thang' and 'Still D.R.E.' Em got the crowd to chant for Dre's long-delayed Detox LP as Dre left the stage, and the reclusive star promised, 'I'm comin'!' "
But Graham also wrote that Em's performance dragged a bit during a D12 mini-set. He also noted that Jay-Z has played a lot more shows in the past few years, and hints that as a result, Jay's show seemed a bit more refined. "Unlike Eminem," he wrote, [Jay-Z] didn't seem to be relying on pre-recorded tracks to bolster his vocals."
Could be much ado about nothing, though, as Handyside felt differently. "Where Jay put on a full-on polished show," he wrote, "Em hosted a loose cannon revue and seemed to enjoy every minute of it. He's made clear that he's through with the 'game' element of hip-hop. And Thursday he let it be known what that looked like."