Back in the day, Eminem was always known as an electric live performer, often matching thrilling set-pieces and visuals to his vivid lyricism and song content. Then around 2004 when he started to dwindle down the first half of his career and become seriously addicted to sleep medication, you could feel the energy and colour of his shows being drained out more and more. The lowest point for me, as a fan, was seeing him in 2005 lip-syncing “Mosh”.
Eminem always has a backing track to help him keep in perfect time with the song and to fill in spots if he’s out of breath, and also to amplify certain choruses that are the product of layering and careful construction such as “Lose Yourself”. This is what some fans mistake as lip-syncing, this is not what I mean. Em has always done this and it’s not lip-syncing, as he’s still rapping out loud, it’s just a guide.
No, in 2005, there’s a clip of him really lip-syncing “Mosh”. I think it was on some European chat show and I believe he also lip-synced “Just Lose It”. You could almost see the boredom in his face and motions, tedium had begun to set in for him.
Well forget those days, as it’s now 2011 and he’s full-throttle, more focused than ever. He may still look a little awkward on-stage, like he’s still trying to figure out what to do with himself (especially during hooks) and the set-pieces may be less tailored and unique now, but one thing is for sure, Em is putting all his effort in again. Seeing him perform now reminds me of him in 2002, when he was (in my opinion) at the top of his game, in almost every regard. Even prior to that, he’d scream / rap lyrics live with such conviction and passion you wondered if the veins in his neck may actually burst.
If you were lucky enough to be at either Osheaga (Canada, Montreal) or Kanrocksas (US, Kansas) recently then you would of witnessed the almighty Marshall bring the house down with a 90 minute set that included the vast majority of his most beloved tracks, and most recent hits including “Not Afraid”, “Space Bound”, “No Love” and “Love the Way You Lie”. One of his most satisfying medleys of late though is when he performs “Cinderella Man” right after “Till I Collapse”.
Both songs have a loud clap and stomping rap-rock production. And the first time I heard “Cinderella Man” – I thought of it as the “Till I Collapse” of 2010. And I’m sure Em had that in mind, and was trying to somewhat re-create it, given its sound and tone. The songs gel perfectly together and after belting out the shattering first verse of “Till I Collapse”, Mr. Porter (D12) and Em keep the crowd clapping in rhythm and then launch into “Cinderella Man”. It’s probably my favourite song from Recovery too.
I’ve not been privileged enough to see Eminem live yet, ever. I was too young when he was in his prime, but I’m gonna try to make it to V Festival. As it seems he’s making somewhat of an historic mark with these recent performances, like he’s determined to explode the stage with every show. Watching his recent live videos sometimes bring a small lump to my throat too… probably because of all the emotion he infuses through his music and the spirit of his material. It just feels very, huge.
There’s always a weight behind what he does, or some kind of grounding in reality or just something, that makes his songs ‘heavy’ and timeless.
He’s also drawing record crowds – a whopping 38,000 people saw him at Osheaga (the most in the festival’s history). Em seems to be making a noticeable impression on all those that have seen him lately, including all kinds of music writers and live reviewers. And given that he’s fairly new to performing at festivals (he’d only done in a handful in the entire span of his career prior), it’s good to see that the crowds are more than warming to him. Going nuts for him in fact. But who wouldn’t? it’s fucking Eminem!
With more festivals to come, Em seems to be owning the 2011 live circuit. Lollapalooza next.