Rapture review: Eminem still in character, 15 years on

Rapture review: Eminem still in character, 15 years on

Eminem/Rapture 2014
Etihad Stadium, February 19

Does Eminem have to do homicidal insanity maintenance? Does he warm up by twitching his eyelids and bulging his glossy orbs in the dressing room mirror under a brow of Botox? Does he train jowls of steel lest the explosive adoration of tens of thousands of fans coax a tiny, grateful smirk from his lips halfway through Berzerk or No Love or Kill You?

Eminem, the world's biggest-selling hip-hop act, performs in Melbourne.

Eminem, the world's biggest-selling hip-hop act, performs in Melbourne.Credit:Jeremy Deputat

We may never know. Fifteen years since his arrival as a violently damaged all-American public enemy to shame Marilyn Manson, Marshall Mathers remains brilliantly in character: a walking, rapping act of aggression with a spitfire tongue that never slips into his cheek.

Brutish volume was a given at Melbourne's inaugural and impressively packed Rapture (get it?) hip-hop stadium slam. The macho subtext was as subtle as the crotch-cupping manoeuvre favoured by US support acts J Cole and Kendrick Lamar, as well as the headliner who blew them both to smithereens.


Cole's more R'n'B flavoured tunes were pulverised by his own attack: a mess of live rock elements and sweet '70s soul samples from which his Born Sinner confessions rarely communicated effectively.

Lamar was more in control musically and as a performer, though the gripping escape-from-gangland narrative of his scene-stealing Good Kid, m.A.A.d City album deserved a clearer hearing. For all its obvious physical excitement, pounding sound production can be a frustrating bedfellow in a genre that prides itself on incisive storytelling and skilled language.

Tooth-loosening bass was no obstacle to comprehension when Eminem and his beefy buddy Mr Porter hit the ballistic highs of I Just Don't Give A F—ck and Criminal, the possibly ironic fag-stabbing gist of which was already on most fans' lips.

Loping and jogging in trademark spasms in half-mast baggy shorts and hoodie, the world's biggest-selling hip-hop act also gave us The Way I Am and a medley of early hits My Name Is and The Real Slim Shady, complete with rather quaint references to impregnating Spice Girls and being sent here by God "to piss the world off".

Nobody's too pissed off by Eminem anymore, of course, although that backing singer doing all of Rihanna and Dido's chorus hooks surely deserved to be at least introduced by name, if not given a turn in the big boys' spotlight. The melodic relief of Stan, Love the Way You Lie and Monster made for popular departures from the shouty monochrome of the main man's act.

He did love us, by the way. He told us that at last, as we all raised hands for the anthemic finale of Not Afraid, a song he dedicated to any amongst us who had been touched by the curse of addiction.

Actually, there was a glimpse of something like tenderness as the self-anointed Rap God laid that undeniably heartfelt parting blessing upon us. But definitely no smile. This is showbiz.

Most Viewed in Entertainment