It's less than a week until Eminem returns to headline the Main Stage at both Reading and Leeds festivals. Twelve years after he last headlined the festival, with his crew D12 in tow, can he still cut it at the top? We watched him play Ireland's Slane Castle this weekend, and this is what we've deduced:
Eminem began by giving his newest track 'Survival' pride of place. He barely interacted with the crowd, but his set was clearly designed to please, including old classics 'Stan', 'My Name Is' and 'The Way I Am'. He made an emotional dedication of 'Not Afraid' to "all the people touched by my music". The crowd lapped it up. For the encore it was time to 'Lose Yourself'. The crowd in Ireland did, surely Reading & Leeds will be no different.
'Survival/Won't Back Down'
'Just Don't Give A Fuck'
'Cleaning Out My Closet'
'The Way I Am'
'Airplanes Part II'
'Sing For The Moment'
'Like Toy Soldiers'
''Till I Collapse'
'Love The Way You Lie'
'My Name Is/The Real Slim Shady/Without Me'
At Slane, Eminem was shy to say the least. He said three things in total. Before 'Love The Way You Lie', he said "I haven't talked to the ladies all motherfuckin' tonight", (cue screams) "How many of you ladies have been in a relationship like this…?" (cue song). After that, he said "I don't do drugs anymore but how many of you guys in here are fucked up? What about you the people on top, you fucked up too? Ireland, since clearly everybody is fucked up, can I take you back a minute?" (My Name Is - starts). Finally, before 'Not Afraid', he said "I'm amazed by how many people connect with my music, how much it means to them. This next song I wrote when I was in a very dark place. Hopefully, anyone who's been in that place, this can help them too. This is for you". His hype man gave the occasional 'Ireland make some noise' etc. throughout the concert but that was it.
Although he'd toured with just a turntablist before, this time round he's backed by an 8 piece live band and a hype man, Mr Porter.
But No Chainsaw
He's dropped some of the theatrics, but the setup was still impressive. At Slane the stage had two tiers with three ramps between. On the lower section, you had Eminem and Mr Porter - on the upper section you had the band (two drummers, two keyboards, one guitar, one bass, female vocals and DJ on decks). Behind them, there was a giant Eminem E flipped 90 degrees (I'd say about 60 feet tall), so it looked like W, which played atmospheric videos ('Stan' had videos of the rain pouring down on a road, 'White America' had a black and white American flag - a lot of them were purely atmospheric, for example, the video that played during 'Cinderella Man' was just a still of a man's handprint). Both sides of stage, there were screens with live video of the set.
There were three explosions during the set - but just noise. One after 'Kill You', one after 'The Way I Am' and one after 'Lose Yourself'. In Slane, there's a tradition of having a fireworks display after the show is over, but it's very much separate from the performance.
Except From The Man Himself
Eminem's show at Slane Castle was the first time Ireland's most prestigious rock'n'roll arena had opened its doors to rap. As it transpired, the Detroit artist left an indelible impression. You wouldn't bet against him doing the same thing at Reading & Leeds.