Better than: Probably seeing either of them on their own.
Eminem and Rihanna are strangely perfect for one another. Both are the rebellious kids of hip-hop with Eminem still happy to play the kooky rascal and Rih finding herself more and more comfortable with being the apathetic lil sis going through her goth phase. They may be two of pop music’s biggest weirdos so naturally their concert together emphasizes the quirks we love them for and that few others can successfully pull off.
Like most collaborative tours as of late, ‘The Monster Tour’ is given some loose framework and plot line. Unlike most, Em and Rih entertain the idea of following this plot line for barely a minute before forgetting it altogether. The show begins with a pre-recorded scene featuring Rihanna in a lab coat on her way to visit psychiatric patient/”monster” Eminem in his “hamster cage,” and it ends with Em dropping f-bombs and absurd one-liners as Rihanna walks away. They set themselves up as if they were the stars of a Judd Apatow-directed Harley Quinn/The Joker film and the tone of that relationship is the only remnant of the opener to remain throughout the concert, though Em makes a one-off joke in-between songs about Rihanna leaving him in the hamster cage.
Also like other collaborative tours as of late, the show is framed by the songs they’ve made together while the space in-between is filled with two mini-concerts by each respective star. “Numb,” the Rihanna track off Unapologetic that features Em, opens the show with the exact aggro-sex appeal both pull of so well. Part I of the show is a straightforward balance of the pair with Rihanna offering vocals to “No Love” and Em adding a “Renegade” verse to “Run This Town.” After “Won’t Back Down,” Rihanna transitions into “What Now,” made massive by the powerhouse band behind her, and takes over her solo portion of the show.
Completing her full transition into the ghettogothik subculture, Rihanna was flanked by a troupe of black-clad dancers who posed and vogued as she moved on to “Phresh Out the Runway.” Rihanna’s approach to choreography may be the best of most current pop stars just because they feel like realistic moves you can pull out at the club. Of course, no one will ever be in a space where they can pussy pat and crotch grab as often as Rihanna did during her time on stage. Both were her signature moves when she wasn’t body rolling in time to her songs
Like Eminem’s would soon also be, Rihanna’s set was packed with hits, specifically the hits that came post-Good Girl Gone Bad. “Umbrella,” probably her most universally popular song, was the clear outlier and track from GGGB that made an appearance in the show. However, that was expected given the shift Rated R made for Rih sonically, pushing away from sunny pop and fully into her current role as hip-hop’s leading singer and bad girl. There’s no room for “Pon de Replay,” “SOS” or “Take a Bow” in this new space and their absences were hardly noticeable. Instead, tracks like “Pour It Up,” “Rude Boy” and the electrifying “Rockstar 101” gave her a chance to let her pussy pat be as free as it needed to be and for the audience to watch her reach hair metal levels of wild on-stage antics.
She capped off her portion with a double-dose of balladry starring the lovely “Stay” and “Love the Way You Lie, Part II,” the latter being the perfect segue into bringing Eminem back on-stage for his lengthier portion. Gleefully, the rapper jumped around between all of his albums transitioning between every facet of his highly publicized personal troubles and musical personas. Unlike Rihanna, Eminem released a new album in the past year, but he kept his choice in hits well-balanced. Alongside hype man Mr. Porter, Em shredded them all, though “Rap God” was an early favorite of the audience.
Of course, Eminem wouldn’t be Eminem if he didn’t make some ill-timed choices. The gun shots, a source of controversy at his Lollapalooza performance in the middle of the crime-addled Chicago, were as equally awkward and unwelcome. The shots came most clearly after “Kill You” and “Criminal,” and watching the sea of mostly white bodies in the audience cheer for the sounds at a time when the aftermath of Mike Brown’s murder has reverberated across the world was, to put it lightly, uncomfortable. Prior to that the audience was already side-eyeing at his “let me hear the ladies!” chant during “Love the Way You Lie,” a song about domestic violence.
In the middle of Em’s set, Rihanna appeared again to sing on “Airplanes” and “Stan,” though guest spots on “Sing for the Moment” and “Like Toy Soldiers” were missed opportunities. For the second half of his solo time on stage, Em when straight for the nostalgia, offering up “My Name Is,” “The Real Slim Shady,” and “Without Me” back-to-back. Before “Not Afraid,” he offered support to people who have lost someone from addiction or have suffered from it as he has. The offering would have felt more poignant if not for his earlier delight in getting the audience to chant “I’m fucked up, I’m fucked up. I’m high as hell, I’m high as hell.”
The final act of ‘The Monster Tour’ was the most turnt of it all. After “Diamonds,” Rih performed her final solo song of the night — a turned down version of “We Found Love” that rose to a full-rave in time for the chorus. Eminem followed with “Lose Yourself” and every person in the audience acted as if they had been immediately transported right into an 8 Mile rap battle. Naturally, they closed with their latest collaboration “The Monster” and capped off the night as weird and joke-y as it started with Em randomly quoting a movie and poking fun at himself for doing so. Rihanna laughed and flipped her hair and both walked away from the stage with no more fucks given than usual.
See the massive set list on the following page.
Critical Bias: The years of 2005 and 2006 for me were heavily soundtracked by Eminem’s greatest hits compilations Curtain Call and Rih’s first two albums, Music of the Sun and A Girl Like Me. Basically, I had a very turnt seventh grade experience.
Random Notebook Dump: Since Eminem quoted the Step Brothers, I think it’s necessary to watch the movie with both him and Kanye West at least once.
See also: Does the World Still Want Eminem?
Part I (Em x Rih):
Run This Town/Renegade
Live Your Life
Crack a Bottle
Won’t Back Down
Part II (Rihanna):
Phresh Out the Runway
Talk That Talk
What’s My Name
Pour It Up
All of the Lights
Where Have You Been
Love the Way You Lie, Part II
Part III (Eminem):
Love the Way You Lie (w/ Rihanna)
Just Don’t Give a Fuck
The Way I Am
Airplanes (w/ Rihanna)
Stan (w/ Rihanna)
Sing for the Moment
Like Toy Soldiers
Till I Collapse
My Name Is
The Real Slim Shady
We Found Love (Rihanna)
Lose Yourself (Eminem)
The Monster (Eminem x Rihanna)
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 18, 2014