Eminem thwarted efforts by CANADIAN officials to have him banned from playing the country last night by appearing before more than 20,000 at the TORONTO SKYDOME – and NME.COM was there to see the drama unfold.
The artist, who tops the bill along with Limp Bizkit on the Anger Management Tour, faced arrest if he entered the country following an official complaint by anti-violence advocate Valerie Smith in protest at the rap star’s controversial lyrics.
Then on Wednesday (25 October), her views were backed by Ontario Attorney-General Jim Flaherty who announced he would seek to prevent Eminem performing at scheduled concerts in Toronto and Montreal.
Citing the lyrics of ‘Kill You’ – where Eminem sings “Slut, you think I won’t choke no whore/’Til the vocal cords don’t work in her throat no more” – and ‘Kim’, where Eminem describes killing his wife and dumping her body, Flaherty railed: “The lyrics are shocking and disgusting, and I would hope that people in Ontario who agree about the evil of domestic violence would not support this person financially.”
While local anti-censorship groups were quick to label Flaherty’s outrage as “grandstanding”, Canadian fans were nonetheless on their edge of their seats last night, wondering if Flaherty would success in banning Eminem from the stage.
In the afternoon before the show, Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst told a news conference: “I don’t think there’s a legislature worth a crap that’s gonna stop this show from happening. If anyone doesn’t want Eminem to play, then good luck – because the show’s definitely going on.”
The Limp Bizkit frontman may have been especially anxious to get Eminem over the border, to continue with this problematic tour. Only two days previous, an Albany, New York concert was cancelled due to Durst’s own swollen vocal cords.
In Toronto, where people are gearing up for both national and municipal elections, there was no end to politicians trying to gain mileage from the controversy, despite that Eminem had performed in the city, unmolested, only a few months previous.
“I hope we can get this guy off the stage and get him the hell out of Toronto,” said Mel Lastman, the city’s outspoken mayor. “This is not entertainment, people of Toronto. Be ashamed if you go – and you should not go.”
But the show went on. According to Canadian immigration law, persons cannot be barred from entering Canada without being convicted of a crime – which despite various ongoing court cases, is not yet true of Eminem. Immigration official Derik Hodgson told NME.COM: “If all people who made bad music were kept out of Canada, we could have stopped disco. Eminem hasn’t been convicted of anything and that’s the bottom line.”
Eminem responded to Valerie Smith from the Skydome’s stage last night, calling her “that bitch”, and dedicating ‘The Way I Am’ to her.
“They told me if I performed ‘Kill You’ tonight they were going to lock me up”, the rapper told the audience. “Guess what! I already performed it.”
The controversy parallels a similar incident in the early ’90s. As captured on her film, ‘Truth Or Dare’, an onstage Madonna berated the “fascist state of Toronto” for forbidding her from simulating masturbation during her live act.