Eminem clearly felt that he had something to prove Thursday night (Sept. 2) at the opening show of his Home And Home tour series with fellow rapper Jay-Z. It wasn't a desire to "beat" his colleague on his home turf in the first of their four shows, however. Rather, Eminem set out to confront his past demons, put them to rest and claim a victorious and potent present - which he largely did during an exhaustive, guest-filled 100-minute performance at Detroit's Comerica Park that spanned his entire recording career with full or partial performances of 33 songs.
That he sought to make amends of a sort was not surprising. It was shortly after Eminem's erratic Aug. 12, 2005 show at the same stadium, closing out that year's Anger Management Tour, that he canceled a European tour and checked into rehab for a pill addiction. This history was noted on the massive rear-stage video screen on Thursday before telling the crowd of 42,000 -- which included actor David Arquette and comedian David Coulier -- that "tonight you are here to witness Eminem's RECOVERY!"
One could certainly argue that Eminem recovered with last year's chart-topping comeback set, "Relapse," but he's clearly much more vested in this year's "Recovery," which has spent seven non-consecutive weeks at No. 1 and is already double platinum itself, spawning a pair of No. 1 hits in "I'm Not Afraid" and "Love the Way You Lie," his current chart-topper with Rihanna.
"Goddamn it, Detroit, I'm back, man," said Eminem, sweating profusely through his gray T-shirt. "Did you miss me, or what? Goddamn, it feels good to be back!" He had plenty of help with his return. In addition to hype man Denuan Porter -- the D12 mate who's replaced Eminem's late mentor Proof -- at his side, there was DJ Alchemist and a full band that featured "Lose Yourself" and Was (Not Was) alumnus Luis Resto on keyboards, as well as an extensive stack of pre-recorded vocal layers. Detroit rapper Trick Trick came out for some hometown love with "Welcome 2 Detroit," while the rest of D12 came out for "Fight Music," "Purple Pills" and the comical "My Band."
B.o.B., who opened the evening with his own half-hour set, recreated "Airplanes Pt. II," though Eminem band singer Liz Rodrigues subbed for Paramore's Hayley Williams - as she also did for Rihanna on "Love the Way You Lie" and Dido on "Stan."
Drake made the scene for a version of his hit, "Forever," proclaiming it an "honor" to perform with "the legend that is Eminem." 50 Cent joined Eminem for "Patiently Waiting," then gave the star a break while he performed "I Get Money" and "In Da Club" with G-Unit cohort Lloyd Banks, after which Eminem returned with co-headliner Jay-Z to perform "Renegade."
The stadium shook when Dr. Dre came on stage for "Still Dre" and "Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang," with Eminem taking up Snoop Dogg's parts. When Eminem led the crowd in chanting for Dre's long-awaited "Detox" album, the producer - who sported a Proof T-shirt - promised, "I'm comin'!" Curiously, neither he nor 50 Cent were part of "Crack a Bottle," even though they appear on the recording and were obviously in the house.
The guests only bolstered an already solid set of Eminem's own material, including seven tracks from "Relapse" and early hits such as "My Name Is," "The Real Slim Shady" and "Without Me." His stage was set up as a junkyard laden with automobile carcasses, while the extensive visual presentation included snippets from several of his MTV Video Music Award-winning clips. It was a winning night, even if it wasn't a competition, and Eminem appeared genuinely touched as he dedicated "Lose Yourself" to the hometown fans who showed him such great support since 2005. "I am so motherf***ing happy to be back!" he declared. The feeling was mutual.