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Eminem has still got it (Boston Calling review, setlist)

The third and final day of Boston Calling was the worst weather of the weekend (about 35 degrees cooler than the previous two days and rainy), but it seemed like it was the most packed. The merch and food lines were longer, the line for the indoor comedy/film/podcast/etc stage was longer (though maybe just because people wanted to get out of the rain), and if it was indeed a more packed day, it was surely because this day’s headliner was Eminem. A little rain couldn’t stop him from having the most packed-like-sardines crowd of any headliner all weekend.

Eminem’s new albums aren’t so hot, but the songs from the Slim Shady LP/Marshall Mathers LP/Eminem Show era are some of the best rap songs ever recorded, and Em reminded the Boston crowd that he can still rap those songs like he did in the old days. His songwriting may have taken a hit over the years, but his technical skills as a rapper and a performer remain as sharp as ever. Joined on stage by his hypeman Mr. Porter, his DJ Alchemist, a live band, and an orchestra (and singer Skylar Grey on a few songs and Royce Da 5’9″ for one), Em was still running around the stage with the energy of a kid half his age, and each syllable came out of his mouth with the speed, fury, and precision that he had at the turn of the millennium. Even when he played the newer songs that are eh on his albums, he sounded at the top of his game. He put on the kind of show where it didn’t really matter what song he was playing; just watching the art of his rapping come to life was a thrill, even if it meant hearing the chorus of “Not Afraid” a few times. The only real complaint I had was that he performed a lot of the newer songs in their entirety and cut a lot of the classics after one or two verses, and I wish it would’ve been the other way around.

But even if they were partial versions, hearing those old favorites performed nearly perfectly in 2018 made for the kind of overwhelming experience that’s tough to fully put into words. With music this ingrained in pop culture and an artist this iconic (and fireworks included), it felt like Metallica/Paul McCartney levels of a larger than life concert. (And for it what it’s worth, those artists haven’t released great music in a long time either.) It’s the kind of concert where you just can’t even compare it to something you’d see on an average night out in a club, or even in an arena. It’s a whole different league of live music. When Em played the classics — which included “Square Dance,” “Criminal,” “Kill You,” “White America,” “The Way I Am,” “Sing for the Moment,” “Just Don’t Give A Fuck,” “Stan,” “‘Till I Collapse,” a medley of “My Name Is” into “The Real Slim Shady” into “Without Me,” and the encore of “Lose Yourself” (and I guess we can count “Like Toy Soldiers” as a classic too, why not) — it was like being transported back to the place you were when you first heard those songs, and then quickly realizing you’re actually here in present day, surrounded by tens of thousands of people yelling every word, led by the guy who actually wrote these songs. It was surreal.

I’ve heard mixed reviews of other past tours in Eminem’s “comeback” era, so it shouldn’t be taken for granted that he’s really putting on fantastic live shows in 2018. It also shouldn’t be taken for granted that the crowd really showed up for him. So many of his contemporaries have disappeared completely or get booked at mid-day festival slots if fests are still booking them at all, but Eminem — despite years of critic-and-fan-hated music and despite the fact that many of his biggest hits will forever be tied to the Y2K era — was the most major draw at this major festival, and I won’t be surprised if the same thing happens at Governors Ball, Bonnaroo, or Firefly. (He wasn’t the most major draw at Coachella, but Coachella had Beyonce.) He thanked his fans for sticking with him, and it actually sounded genuine. He so easily could have fallen off miserably by now, and somehow he has not.

Boston Calling day one pics/review HERE, day two pics/review HERE, and day three pics/review HERE.

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Setlist
Medicine Man (Dr. Dre song)
Won’t Back Down
3 a.m.
Square Dance
Kill You
White America
Rap God
Sing for the Moment
Like Toy Soldiers
Forever (Drake song)
Just Don’t Give a Fuck
Framed
Criminal
The Way I Am
Walk on Water
Stan
Love the Way You Lie
Berzerk
‘Till I Collapse
Fast Lane (Bad Meets Evil song)
River
Nowhere Fast
The Monster
Cinderella Man
My Name Is
The Real Slim Shady
Without Me
Not Afraid

Encore:
Lose Yourself

photos by Jeremy Deputat, courtesy of Boston Calling

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