By Scott T. Sterling
With Jay Z and Beyoncé‘s joint tour dubbed the On the Run tour, Eminem and Rihanna‘s competing stadium Monster jaunt is akin to a musical drive-by. Like two mercenaries coming together to build on their mutual notoriety and string of massive hits, Slim Shady and RiRi have birthed the perfect beast, which kicked off last night (Aug. 7) at Pasadena, Calif.’s iconic Rose Bowl.
Between Eminem’s legendary but reclusive rap status and Rihanna being one of pop music’s most consistent hit-makers of the past decade, the Monster tour launch drew an impressively panoramic cross-section of 60,000 fans. From family scenes of tweens with parents in tow to packs of twenty-something men and women to a middle-aged contingent who bought The Slim Shady LP when it first debuted in early 1999, there was a festive, communal energy around the stadium.
With the sun setting in the distance, the show started with a short film with Eminem as a Hannibal Lecter-type character in an isolation chamber and Rihanna as his Clarice Starling, leading to the pair hitting the expansive stage to open with “Numb,” their collaboration from her 2012 album, Unapologetic.
Shifting into a version of Jay Z’s “Run This Town,” the pair performed a handful of hits together including T.I.‘s “Live Your Life” and “Won’t Back Down” before Eminem disappeared into the shadows to allow Rihanna to perform an extended set of her icy electro R&B hits.
Touching on tracks including “Phresh Out the Runway,” “Rude Boy” and “What’s My Name,” Rihanna took on all aspects of her sound, with a bombastic take on “Rock Star 101” (complete with an interpolation of The Who‘s “Baba O’Reilly”), the big ballad “Stay” which turned into a massive singalong and the EDM-tinged party track, “Where Have You Been,” all of which set the stage for Eminem’s return on the duo’s joint single, “Love the Way You Lie.”
(Photo by Jeremy Deputat)
Eminem’s diehard fans in the building were rewarded with a string of tracks from the Detroit MC, who charged through “Square Dance,” “Still Don’t Give a F–k,” “Criminal” and “The Way I Am.” His mere presence electrified the crowd, which eagerly obeyed his every demand to bounce, sing along and make some noise.
Rihanna returned to play the role of Hayley Williams on a version of B.o.B.‘s “Airplanes,” which led into a Em’s huge 2000 single, “Stan,” this time with Rihanna handing the vocals originally recorded by Dido.
The show’s transitions were impressively seamless, moving between the two artists without any unnecessary melodrama or clunky set pieces. Both performers attacked their songs with inspired precision, allowing the music (and regular explosions of pyrotechnics) do most of the heavy lifting.
Heading into the home stretch with “Berzerk,” “The Real Slim Shady” and “Not Afraid,” Eminem again relinquished the stage to Rihanna, who kept the crowd’s energy level high with “Diamonds” and an extended version of “We Found Love” that moved from a somber acoustic reading into the familiar full-on dance floor mix produced by Calvin Harris.
Taking over the stage for one last song, Eminem closed the main set with his 8 Mile single “Lose Yourself,” coming out with his tourmate to end the night with an encore of the tour’s theme song, “The Monster.”
Impeccably paced and sequenced like a great DJ set, Eminem and Rihanna’s Monster tour more than lives up it its name, delivering an entertaining and engaging show that leaves fans of both acts well served and satisfied.
Eminem and Rihanna Monster Tour setlist:
Run This Town
(“Renegade” verse from Eminem)
Live Your Life
Crack a Bottle
Won’t Back Down
Phresh Out the Runway
Talk That Talk
What’s My Name
(remixed with Trey Songz’ “Na Na”)
Pick It Up
Cockiness (Love It)
You Da One
Wait Your Turn
All of the Lights
Where Have You Been
Love the Way You Lie
Just Don’t Give a F–k
Still Don’t Give a F–k
The Way I Am
Airplanes pt. 2
Like Toy Soldiers
‘Till I Collapse
My Name Is
The Real Slim Shady
We Found Love (acoustic and regular version)