I meant to follow up a couple of days ago on my initial post about going to see Eminem and Rihanna perform at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium for their Monster Tour … but I was at a loss for words! My gorgeous friend Jen and I had too much fun in the second row where, to my surprise, the crowd was significantly less violent than the one for Eminem at Lollapalooza in 2011. When the Monster Tour started with “Numb,” I braced myself for a Lolla-like surge forward, but everyone politely stayed put — while screaming at the top of their lungs — where they’d been standing for a couple of hours.
No concert experience can compare to being front row for Eminem at the small G-Shock party he played last year, where there was practically no space between the stage and the audience. (There was a much bigger “moat” at MetLife.) But it was a different kind of amazing to be as close as possible in an 80,000-seat venue, where seeing the performers’ expressions directly, rather than via a giant video screen, is really special.
A number of reviews emphasized the difference in performing styles between Rihanna and Eminem: She seems remote, even blasé, while he’s dripping in sweat, working his ass off. It’s fun to study that close up. I finally decided that Rihanna reminds me of eternally cool Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts … that is, if Charlie came out from behind his drums and took up twerking. For 50 years, Charlie has been chillin’ like a villain on stage, often looking like he’s smiling to himself and thinking of Mick Jagger, “Look at that idjit prancing around. I’m getting paid just fine sitting back here and laughing at his ass.”
Charlie Watts is like the honey badger. He don’t care. Rihanna is the pop diva honey badger. Let the other songstresses work their elaborate aerial routines and wear their complicated, couture costumes that must be trotted out night after night. Rihanna will wear something different for each concert to show that she just DGAF. Sure, she started both nights at MetLife in a rock t-shirt and bondage pants, but she switched them up.
Later in the Saturday show, she wore a sheer skirt over black panties, and a sheer bra that showed her nipple ring. On Sunday, her costume was a customized red t-shirt-turned-nightgown by Adam Selman and thigh-high red boots by Christian Louboutin.
By the way, check out Rihanna’s mermaid-length hair.
The mermaid look was a big thing for would-be rap star Azealia Banks a couple of years ago. When I first saw Rihanna’s new ‘do I had to laugh at the thought that she had swallowed up Azealia — style-wise, at least — like a vestigal twin. Better come up with a new gimmick, Azealia, wherever you are.
One thing Eminem doesn’t care about at all is fashion. He’s always casual. Hoodies, hats, t-shirts, shorts, sneakers. Done!
All the better to focus on his performance, because, damn! He works hard! That kind of effort suits the star of the show, which he definitely was. There were some big Rihanna fans, and I’d say her hits were greeted with enthusiasm, but between her songs, the audience chanted for … Who? What? Slim Shady. (And Eminem. And Marshall.)
If you didn’t go to the show and only read the New York Times review — which claimed Rihanna was keeping Eminem relevant and described him as “… merely a galaxy-size cult favorite, a 41-year-old white rapper far from the center of pop culture, leaning heavily on reputation and largely failing to innovate” — you wouldn’t have a clue as to what it was like in that stadium, where I was sure 80,000 screaming people would have turned up for him even if Rihanna hadn’t been there. (Actually, 90,000 did show up, two nights in a row, for the Rap God’s solo shows at Wembley Stadium in London last month.)
If you’re going to criticize Em, the New Yorker’s review of 2013’s The Marshall Mathers LP 2 makes more sense. Calling his performing persona “addicted to pain,” it asked, “But how long is Eminem going to take revenge on a world that’s long since made it clear that it adores him?” For real. There was so much love at MetLife, it’s hard to imagine anyone walking off that stage and still feeling like an underdog … at least for a few minutes.
I do get tired of critics who seem so put out that musicians can’t endlessly replicate the work and impact of their youthful days. To go back to the Times’s “galaxy” reference, I say that when musicians revolutionize pop culture the way the Beatles, Madonna, or Eminem have all done, they’re more than megastars — they’re supernovae. It’s true that in space, supernovae don’t outshine galaxies forever and, on Earth, performers don’t have the exact same fire they had for their debut 15, 30 or 50 years on. But they’re still the biggest fucking stars around!
Having mentioned Madonna, I should note that, while I’ve now seen Eminem five times, Madonna is still easily my most-seen performer. (I believe I’ve seen her 14 times.) Nevertheless, I encourage her to go on tour to keep her lead secure. It’s been two years and I miss her.
- My best photos from the Monster Tour are on Flickr here.
- In addition to the long videos in this post and the previous concert post, I have a bunch of short clips on YouTube.