A cardboard sign brandished in the crowd proudly proclaimed “I got expelled 4 this”. Another replied “me 2”. The signs may have been soggy by the end of a drizzly night but their bearers most likely went home satisfied from the biggest hip-hop show in the city in some time.
Bellahouston Park, Glasgow ***
The Bellahouston ’burbs was perhaps an unlikely setting for the live return of superstar rapper Eminem ahead of his Reading/Leeds Festival headline sets this weekend, but he seemed sincere in his love of Scotland as he suggested that he was considering a move away from Trump’s America. Or, to quote his own t-shirt logo, “Fack Trump”.
Earlier in the evening, his main support act Run the Jewels engaged with some softer social politics, laying down the rules of the moshpit and threatening to send out their portly rapper Killer Mike to crowdsurf over insurgents. Commanding the stage in cuddly middle-aged manner, they delivered where it counted, in tight interplay between Mike and fellow rapper El-P over big rock-infused beats.
RTJ are one of the more interesting hip-hop acts to emerge of late but their old school two MCs and turntablist set-up could only ever be a warm-up to the Eminem Show, with its slick visuals, volleys of pyrotechnics, beefy live band and, most crucially, a focused performance from Eminem, who spent most of the set on his toes like a sparring boxer, playing off his rap partner Denaun Porter.
Apart from a brief screaming match between sections of the crowd, there were no pantomime diversions to the relentless flow of the set, which crammed 18 years of material into 90 minutes, sometimes to the detriment of the storytelling but all the better to showcase the dynamism and personality of a catalogue which has evolved from the brattish bile of his early works to momentous movie soundtracks.
Now in his mid-40s, Eminem hasn’t entirely brushed the chips off his shoulder but he reserved most of his bile for the current President of the USA. It was tempting to interpret the 15-year-old White America as a prescient pop at the kind of country Trump seeks to create but, as with most of Eminem’s material, it’s really all about him.
Eventually the rapid-fire combative raps gave way to the more sentimental pop collaborations with the likes of Rihanna and Paramore’s Hayley Williams and the overblown samples of Martika and Aerosmith tracks which arguably make more obvious festival fodder.
Even Stan’s deranged stalker edge has been blunted over the years, so it was refreshing to revisit the impish, caustic hits which made his name at the turn of the millennium, even if the gloriously catchy My Name Is, The Real Slim Shady and Without Me were sandwiched together and dispensed with too soon to make way for the touchy feely bombast of Not Afraid. After this, there was only one more order of business – to encore with his most satisfying epic, Lose Yourself.