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Concert Reviews:
Eminem and friends bring rockin' "Recovery" to Comerica Park
 

By GARY GRAFF
of the Oakland Press

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DETROIT -- Gazing into the cell-phone lighted darkness in front of him Thursday night (Sept. 2) at Comerica Park, a clearly touched Eminem shed a bit of his tough-guy Slim Shady persona to say "It feels so (expletive) good to be back."

And the 42,000 fans who packed the first of his four Home And Home Tour concerts with fellow rapper Jay-Z couldn't have agreed more.

Given the magnitude of the two superstars as both creative and commercial forces -- and Eminem's as the top-selling artist between 2000-2009 -- it was by any measure a big show, certainly of the year and perhaps, as some fans felt, of a lifetime. But in that particular venue it was an even more profound moment for Eminem.

It was on Aug. 12, 2005, after all, that he closed that year's Anger Management Tour with an erratic performance and subsequently canceled a European tour and checked into rehab for a pill addiction, a downward spiral that provided the backstory for last year's comeback album "Relapse" and this year's already double-platinum "Recovery." This was all duly chronicled Thursday via scrolling text on the massive rear-stage video screen, which ultimately told the crowd -- which included actor David Arquette and comedian Dave Coulier -- that "tonight you are here to witness Eminem's RECOVERY!"

And throughout his exhaustive, guest-filled 100-minute set, Eminem forcefully put those past demons to rest and laid claim to a victorious and potent present. Sporting a black hoodie bearing an Olde English D and fronting a full band -- featuring hype man Denuan Porter, the D12 mate who's replaced Eminem's late mentor Proof at his side, DJ Alchemist and "Lose Yourself" co-writer and Was (Not Was) alumnus Luis Resto on keyboards as well as an extensive stack of pre-recorded vocal layers -- Eminem had the maniacal focus back in his eyes and a total command of the stage as he stomped from side to side in front of a row of demolished cars. "(Expletive) it, Detroit, I'm back!" he declared. "Did you miss me or what?"

They did indeed.

The home town faithful were rewarded with all or part of 33 songs from throughout his career, reaching all the way back to early hits such as "My Name Is," "The Real Slim Shady," "Without Me" and "Cleaning Out My Closet" -- often accompanied by snippets of the songs' video clips -- and also pumping out seven songs from "Recovery," including the show-opening "Won't Back Down" and a particularly powerful "I'm Not Afraid" that closed the main set.

And, perhaps best of all, Eminem had more than a little help from his friends, subtly making the point that recovery, or "Recovery," was not something he did alone. Detroit rapper Trick Trick started the parade by joining Eminem for some Motor City love with "Welcome 2 Detroit," while the rest of D12 came out for "Fight Music," "Purple Pills" and the comical "My Band," which featured Proof's verse on tape. B.o.B., who opened the evening with his own half-hour set, recreated his "Airplanes Pt. II," though Eminem band singer Liz Rodrigues subbed for Paramore's Hayley Williams -- as she also did for Rihanna on "Love the Way You Lie" and for Dido on "Stan."

Toronto MC Drake made the scene for a version of his hit, "Forever," declaring it an "honor" to perform with "the legend that is Eminem." 50 Cent, ill-advisedly wearing a New York Yankees hat in the home of the Tigers, joined Eminem for "Patiently Waiting," then gave the star a break while he performed "I Get Money" and "In Da Club" with G-Unit cohort Lloyd Banks. Jay-Z returned to the stage for a brief runthrough of his "Renegade," and the stadium absolutely shook when Dr. Dre came on stage for "Still Dre" and "Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang," with Eminem taking up Snoop Dogg's parts. Eminem also got the good Dr. to comment on his long-awaited next album, "Detox," with Dre promising that "I'm comin' " as the audience chanted the title.

Curiously, however, neither Dre nor 50 Cent joined in on "Crack a Bottle," even though they appear on the original recording and it's spot in the set list came just after their guest shots on stage.

That was a minor glitch, though, in an otherwise landmark night for both the city and one of its biggest stars. As fireworks accompanied the closing of "Lose Yourself," Eminem could consider himself fully recovered, his reputation rehabilitated and his position at the top of the rap and pop pantheons reasserted.

Jay-Z, who will close the final two Home And Home shows Sept. 13-14 at New York's Yankee Stadium, was full of love for both Detroit and the event during his exuberantly rocking 80-minute set. Taking the scene in for himself early in the show, he announced, "Ladies and gentleman, this is hip-hop music and this is how are we've come. We're rockin' stadiums!" He also referenced Detroit's hard economic times during "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)," promising the crowd that "Detroit has heart, it will be back."

Jay-Z had a few guests of his own as well -- Young Jeezy, who came out for a four-song mini-set early in the show, and Memphis Bleek, who served as Jay-Z's hype man for two-thirds of the show. The New Yorker also paid tribute to Proof and other departed artists and offered an homage to the Notorious B.I.G. with bits of "One More Chance" and "Mo' Money, Mo' Problems." And he was clearly grateful for the good will of the Eminem partisans, telling the crowd after "Empire State of Mind" that "I appreciate you singing 'New York' in Tiger Stadium. I know that's tough for y'all."

They would probably tell him it really wasn't difficult at all.

Some recently opened seats remain for Friday's (Sept. 3) Eminem/Jay-Z show, with B.o.B. opening, at 7:30 p.m. at Comerica Park, at the box office, Ticketmaster outlets and www.livenation.com.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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