Eminem @ Optus Stadium
w/ Hilltop Hoods, Royce da 5’9″, Boogie
Wednesday, February 27, 2019
“Can I have your attention please?” It was over 20 years ago that Slim Shady announced himself to the world, and now 100 million album sales and 15 Grammy Awards later Eminem hit Perth for the first time ever.
It’s an opportunity that has only come once in our lifetime, and even our shiny new Optus Stadium could barely contain the excitement, or the patrons. Over 60,000 people poured into the venue on a warm evening. What was surprising from the beginning was the sheer diversity of the crowd, with everyone from school kids to grandparents, white trash to goths, sharing in the anticipation. When the rap god comes to town it doesn’t matter who you are, we’re all mere mortals by comparison.
It was an early kick off for international support acts Boogie and Royce da 5’9″ but even a partially filled stadium at this point was a sizeable audience.
By the time Hilltop Hoods took to the stage the crowd had blossomed into a thick and heavy mass that had already begun getting drawn in by the magnetic attraction of such a show. The Hard Road and classic tune The Nosebleed Section got the crowd pumping, but newer additions like 1955 and Cosby Sweater to close out the set really got people in the mood.
It really is hard to compare the star power of Eminem to anyone else. Whether you’re a fan or not he is arguably the most talented, iconic, successful and even most controversial artist of this century to date. It’s hard to think of any other act that could prompt a change in the menu at the stadium with ‘Mom’s spaghetti’ available for the patrons to enjoy. His peak time may have come over 10 years ago (and there have been mixed opinions of his work since then) however, he had never performed in Perth before so it felt like those decades of quality songs were part of a legacy that the audience couldn’t help hold front and centre.
Eminem burst out of the blocks with Greatest to the shrieking of overwhelmed fans. The Detroit superstar followed with Won’t Back Down and 3am, and the first of his earlier work in Kill You from the classic Marshall Mathers LP. From there the hits kept on coming with White America and Like Toy Soldiers getting the whole crowd singing along, while he prompted them to get their phone lights out to form a dazzling sea of lights during Sing for the Moment.
Singer and collaborator Skylar Grey joined Eminem onstage and perfectly filled the place of Rihanna in Love the Way you Lie and Dido in arguably his magnum opus, Stan. Probably the biggest bug bear of the night was that epics like this were cut off half way through as clearly there was an intent to “mash up” the set list and cram in as many hits as possible. With such a colossal catalogue you could understand that approach, but having tracks like Without Me finish up with a bang of fireworks after just two verses took the wind out of the sails at times.
Eminem wasn’t overly talkative during the set but seemed genuinely pleased with the reception: “We came on a plane for 20 fucking hours just to see you,” he said, while also warmly referring to the crowd as “family”and asking, “Perth, can we call y’all friends?” Eminem was joined by a string section and brass band onstage and the opinion on their input was mixed between fans. Those in the stands could be forgiven for barely noticing them if it wasn’t for the massive LED screens, while those crushed close to the stage felt they overwhelmed the mix and didn’t allow Eminem’s spitfire wordplay to be as front and centre as it should have been.
Still it was the crowd that did more to drown out the main attraction more than anyone onstage. The audience found their voice the final stretch of the set with Just Don’t Give a Fuck, 2000 classic The Way I Am, Berzerk from 2013 album The Marshall Mathers LP II and the track that we all got to know him by, My Name Is. After a brief encore Slim returned with Lose Yourself and whipped the place into a frenzy.
Eminem put on an amazing show at Optus Stadium and his live show is well deserving of the plaudits it has been receiving over the Rapture Tour. It did seem though that just including the full versions of some of his best songs could have turned it from something great to truly unforgettable.