The surprise wasn’t that Eminem ( news – web sites) has found someone new to take on – namely, Lynne Cheney and the many others who have derided the shock-rapper’s work.
The surprise, instead, came near the end of his 70-minute show, which kicked off the Eminem-headlined Anger Management Tour on Thursday. That’s when a visibly discouraged Eminem was left pleading for more from the audience packing Buffalo’s HSBC Arena.
“Buffalo!” Eminem yelled out as the set segued from “Drug Ballad” to “Come on Everybody,” with little energy flowing from the crowd. “Buffalo! Don’t die on me yet.”
The audience – a majority of it made up of teenagers – responded.
Yet it was a curious moment for the three-time Grammy-winning artist who’s spent most of the last four years claiming to be misunderstood and wishing most everyone would, in fact, shut up.
The show, which promotes his third major-label release, “The Eminem Show,” began when a red velvet curtain was raised to reveal a circus setting, including a big-top tent and Ferris wheel. A big-screen monitor at the back of the stage showed a fast-paced series of television clips featuring his many detractors and their critical comments.
Among them were Sen. Joe Lieberman ( news – web sites), Sen. Sam Brownback and Cheney, Vice President Dick Cheney ( news – web sites)’s wife, who once said of Eminem’s lyrics: “They could not be more despicable. They could not be more hateful.”
With the cheering crowd siding with their apparent anti-hero, Eminem emerged from the top of the spinning Ferris wheel to open the show with “Square Dance,” one of his more politically motivated songs, which takes potshots at the Bush Administration.
Eminem carried the momentum through most of the first-half of the set, which featured such provocative numbers as “Kill You,” “Pimp Like Me,” and “Fight Music,” for which he shared the stage with members of D-12.
But the steam appeared to begin running out in the second half, particularly when Eminem chose to go with either some of his newer releases – “Drips” and “Soldier” – or more obscure songs.
Notably missing from the repertoire were two of Eminem’s previously favorite targets – homosexuals and his ex-wife Kim, whom he’s fantasized about murdering in two songs.
The highlight came when Eminem ended the scheduled set with his latest hit, “Without Me,” re-energizing the crowd. Unfortunately, he left the stage only to return for one encore, the self-deriding, “Dad’s Gone Crazy,” featuring the dubbed voice of Eminem’s daughter Hailie Jade providing the chorus.
Perhaps, in wanting to, as he put it, “show growth” and put the controversies behind him with his new release, Eminem is finding himself caught in the conflict between his two personalities: Marshall Mathers, his given name, and his on-stage alter-ego Slim Shady.
It’s a conflict Eminem referred to in “Without Me,” writing: “I’ve created a monster, cuz nobody wants ta/see Marshall no more they want Shady I’m chopped liver.”
The 30-date U.S. tour, which continues Friday at the Meadows Amphitheater in Hartford, Conn., is scheduled to conclude in the Detroit rapper’s backyard at the Palace in Auburn Hills, Mich., on Sept. 8.
Also on the bill are rockers Papa Roach, promoting their latest release “Lovehatetragedy,” and Atlanta rapper Ludacris.
Bolstered by Jerry Horton’s thunderous guitars, Papa Roach overcame early microphone problems that plagued lead singer Jacoby Shaddix, who at one point voiced a profane complaint aimed at the sound booth.
The trouble eventually corrected, Papa Roach rocked through a 40-minute set that had the crowd on its feet with the final number, “Last Resort.”
Ludacris, still touring on his breakthrough “Word of Mouf” release, and his Disturbing Tha Peace entourage, struggled in the cavernous arena where resulting echoes made it difficult for the members to stay in synch.
Also appearing on the bill are Xzibit, X-ecutioners and Bionic Jive.