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Concert Reviews:
Eminem and Rihanna's Monster has plenty of bite at Comerica Park

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Saturday, August 23, 2014

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DETROIT -- As one set of homeboys, the Detroit Lions, pulled out a squeaker next door, the winning fate of another -- rap superstar Eminem -- was never in question on Friday night, Aug. 22, at Comerica Park.

Playing the first of two sold-out shows for the closing weekend of The Monster Tour with Rihanna, the Oakland County resident also known as Marshall Mathers had the estimated crowd of 45,000 shaking the baseball stadium during much of the tightly arranged two-and-a-half hour show. Eminem -- playing his first home town concert in four years -- was clearly the star of the night, playing longer and, interestingly, making more wardrobe changes than his pop diva tourmate. But the show succeeded mostly as an exercise in fluid showmanship, maintaining its momentum with just a few breaks in the action.

Rolling through 50 songs between them, including their four released duets, Eminem and Rihanna were more cooperative than competitive, while the juxtaposition of styles -- Eminem's raw, confrontational raps and Rihanna's polished, pop/hip-hop hybrid, both bolstered by recorded vocal enhancements -- was complementary rather than contradictory. And any fan of strictly one likely emerged from Friday's show with at least an appreciation of the other's merits.

Eminem and Rihanna's shared sense of humor was on display from the get-go, with a short introductory film that portrayed Rihanna paying a visit to a maximum security ward where a comically menacing Eminem whined about the amenities. The duo then opened the show itself, meanwhile, by recreating their collaboration on Rihanna's "Numb;" she smartly paid homage to another Detroit music icon, Alice Cooper, on her T-shirt while Eminem prowled the lengthy stage in a black hoodie. Extensive video production and pyrotechnics accompanied the brisk back-and-forth of his "No Love," snippets of Jay Z's "Run This Town" and T.I.'s "Live Your LIfe" and Eminem's buoyant "Crack a Bottle."

"Detroit...we're here, and look who we brought with us," Eminem declared, initiating a loose and friendly give-and-take during which Rihanna dubbed her tour partner "a drama queen" before singing P!nk's parts on a pounding "Won't Back Down."

Their other collaborations included a clever combination of Rihanna's "Love the Way You Lie (Part II)" and Eminem's "Love the Way You Lie" that allowed them to transition between their individual sets, while Rihanna joined Eminem again to sing the Hayley Williams part on B.o.B.'s "Airplanes Pt. II" and Dido's melodic hook on "Stan." "The Monster" -- the hit from Eminem's latest album, "The Marshall Mathers LP 2," that's nominated for three MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday, Aug. 24 -- was the night's appropriate closing track.

Their were plenty of hits during the duo's own portions of the show as well, with Rihanna's really hitting its stride during EDM-flavored late-set song such as "Only Girl (in the World)" and "Where Have You Been," returning later in the evening for "Diamonds" and "We Found Love." She certainly held her own, but Detroit being Eminem's town, the crowd sentiment and excitement clearly leaned his way.

He made the most of it, too. Supported by a full band complete with three-piece horn section, Eminem ripped through a generous and career-spanning 25-song sampling dominated by selections from his early albums, including deep cuts such as "Evil Deeds" and "Square Dance," and often presented in tight, carefully thought-out medleys. "Business" punched its way into "Kill You," while "Marshall Mathers," "Just Don't Give a F***," "Still Don't Give a F***," "Criminal" and "The Way I Am" offered a particularly powerful grouping. The Aerosmith-sampling "Sing For the Moment" slid nicely into the Martika-sampling "Like Toy Soldiers" -- the latter dedicated to Eminem's slain hype man and D-12 partner Proof -- while "My Name Is," "The Real Slim Shady" and "Without You" nostalgically rolled through the lead tracks from his first three albums.

Eminem and current hype man Denaun Porter effusively paid tribute to their home town throughout the show, thanking fans for buying the albums and snapping up concert tickets -- as well as curiously engaging in dialogue from the 2008 film comedy "Step Brothers." Porter introduced "Berzerk" as his favorite song from "The Marshall Mathers LP 2," while Eminem dedicated the defiant "Not Afraid" to the city of Detroit and "everybody who supported me from the beginning." His Grammy and Academy Award-winning anthem "Lose Yourself," meanwhile, was a powerful and transcendent moment amidst the show's many other highlights.

Towards the end Rihanna declared Friday "the best show" of The Monster Tour so far -- hyperbole, certainly, but the Comerica crowd bought into it without protest. "We definitely can't wait to come back here, man," she added, and with another sold-out show slated for Saturday, Aug. 23, the wait fortunately won't be very long at all.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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