Eminem homecoming rocks in revival fashion

August 13, 2005

BY BRIAN McCOLLUM
FREE PRESS COLUMNIST

In Detroit, it’s never just an Eminem concert.

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Interscope Records declined to let the Free Press photograph Friday night’s Eminem concert. At recent concerts, numerous news organizations have refused to agree to Interscope’s photography restrictions and its requirements for prior review of photographs to be published.

For more than 42,200 fans at Comerica Park, Friday night’s visit with rap’s reigning figure was more like a giant hip-hop tent revival, minus the tent and with a lot bigger beat. It was the most anticipated concert of the summer season, a homecoming spectacle for one of the globe’s biggest stars — and one of those nights where you didn’t need the fireworks finale to prove that you were part of something mammoth and noteworthy.

Kicking off his set 50 minutes after the scheduled 9:10 p.m. start, Eminem took the stage in a crisp dark suit as he rolled into the tongue-tripping rap of “Evil Deeds,” one of a host of tunes drawn from last year’s “Encore” album.

If there were nerves, they weren’t obvious. Reemerging in a white and red tracksuit before his second song, the politically charged “Mosh,” Eminem seemed to quickly lock into the momentum of his crowd, appearing coolly upbeat as he and fellow rapper Proof roamed the mammoth stage spanning the baseball stadium’s outfield.

Since he crashed into the public consciousness six years ago, Eminem has risen to popular music’s top echelon — both creatively and commercially — thanks to a smartly conceived mix of cutting lyrics and edgy imagery. At Comerica Park, he displayed much of what he’s learned during his tenure on top, commanding the sold-out stadium with a poised presence.

While it’s probably impossible to recapture the kinetic energy of his 2003 shows across the street at Ford Field — a touchstone in Detroit music lore — Eminem’s performance Friday night certainly carried the air of a massive event.

Hordes of concertgoers — including more than a fair share of families — began streaming into the downtown entertainment district hours earlier. After making it through opening sets from rappers 50 Cent and Lil Jon, they were clearly primed for the main attraction, letting loose with supersized roars at every “Whaddup, Detroit!”

Comerica Park did sport one advantage over its domed football neighbor: a sound more clear and potent than that of the 2003 shows. Muscular songs such as “Cleaning Out My Closet” and “The Way I Am” kept their robustness, while slinkier material (“Business,” “My Name Is”) maintained a funky dexterity.

Early on, Eminem addressed talk of his rumored retirement, buzz spawned by a Free Press report last month examining a potential career transformation for the rapper. Launching a skit he’s been performing since the tour started five weeks ago, he asked fans about their taste for tabloid media — a question met by a sea of boos — before whipping through a series of entertainment magazines and turning to moon the crowd.

While the two-hour concert delivered ample shots of intensity — most notably the pulsing, show-closing “Lose Yourself” — the night was dominated by a sort of easygoing, loose spirit. But for Eminem, it seemed to be a night of big emotions. Toward the show’s end, he paused briefly to absorb a crowd chant of “Shady! Shady!” After managing to quiet the audience, he hollered out what might have been the night’s most earnest declaration: “It’s good to be home!”

Contact BRIAN McCOLLUM at 313-223-4450 or mccollum@freepress.com.

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