Frontier Psychiatrist

New York vs. Detroit – Jay-Z and Eminem at Yankee Stadium (Best of FP 2010)

Posted on: December 27, 2010

Jay-Z at Yankee Stadium

The difference between Jay-Z and Eminem is comparable to the difference between New York and Detroit.  Historically, both have had incredible highs and recent lows.  In spite of Kanye West, Chris Martin, Drake, and Beyoncé, Jay-Z was in control throughout his set and the unmistakable center of attention. Compared to Eminem, his set included much more; perhaps like New York, he might be too big to fail.  Detroit and Eminem, however, still have work to do to reinvent or re-invigorate and at the moment, both are still heavily reliant on others to approach being at the top of their game.

The message from Jay-Z and Eminem’s September 13 show was that there is no place like New York for a celebration and that there is no better place to celebrate than Yankee Stadium.  Two years ago, Billy Joel sold out two nights for the “Last Play At Shea” – the last shows at Shea Stadium, which had hosted many memorable concerts, and included a celebrated list of performers, including Paul McCartney, Garth Brooks, Steve Tyler, John Mellencamp, John Mayer, and Tony Bennett.  In this, the inaugural concert at Yankee Stadium (the back end of a home and home with Detroit’s Comerica Park), Jay-Z and Eminem brought out at least as much star power in an epic hip hop adventure that rocked until nearly 1.00 AM and included countless guest appearances and highlights.

Eminem at Yankee Stadium

The theme of Eminem’s set, like the title of his most recent album, was Recovery and the difficulty between relying on past strengths versus taking a leap and trying something new.  The stage was adorned with crushed cars and his background video montages routinely showed industrial images from his hometown, Detroit and Eminem took the stage in a familiar black hooded sweatshirt and adopted the hunched over, angry prowl that has historically accompanied his lyrics of pain and frustration.  Otherwise, the audience saw a new Eminem.  Current footage of Eminem was projected alongside clips from the “Stan” video.  Eminem from ten years ago, by comparison, looked gaunt and anxious whereas today’s Eminem appeared determined, bulkier and otherwise prepared for the challenge of regaining ability and prominence (albeit with frequent reliance on backing tracks to support his vocals).

Eminem defiantly challenged the audience to accept that he would not simply be performing a “greatest hits” nostalgia show.  He opened with Recovery’s “Won’t Back Down” and in the early moments of the set included other new tracks, “W.T.P.” “No Love” (with obligatory hopes for the currently incarcerated Lil Wayne) and “So Bad.”  Soaking in the sold-out Stadium’s enthusiasm, Eminem paused a moment and with wide eyes gasped, “holy sh*t, there’s a lotta people in this mothaf*cker.” Later, still embracing the moment, he added that he was honored and privileged to share a stage with Jay-Z and to be performing in the Bronx, the birthplace of hip hop.

The middle part of Eminem’s set included appearances by D12 (for “Fight Music,” “Purple Pills” and “My Band”), B.o.B. (for “Airplanes Part 2”) and Drake (for “Forever”).  Eminem also was joined by 50 Cent on “Patiently Waiting” and then Eminem left the stage for 50 Cent and Lloyd Banks to perform “I Get Money” and – to that point – received the most enthusiastic audience reaction for “In Da Club.”  One of the highlights of the entire event, however, was the introduction of and brief cameo by Dr. Dre, who joined Eminem on “Still D.R.E.” and then “Nuthin’ But a G Thang,” also with 50 Cent.  Amid the guest appearances and in what seemed to be an afterthought, Eminem worked in abbreviated versions of tracks starring his alter-ego, Slim Shady.  “My Name Is,” “Real Slim Shady” and “Without Me” have been among Eminem’s most popular cuts but in this setting, they did not stand up (pun intended).

Eminem, Without Me

Instead, Eminem brought more force with his two newest hits, “Love the Way You Lie” and “Not Afraid” which he paired at the MTV VMA’s the night before.  In spite of all the other guest appearances, Rihanna was not present to support “Love the Way You Lie;” however, the song was backed by mammoth screens broadcasting the song’s troubling video featuring Megan Fox and Dominic Monaghan (reprising Charlie, from Driveshaft?).

As a whole, Eminem’s set was far more than an “Eminem Show” it was ambitious and served notice that Eminem seems intent to return to the center of hip hop, if not all of pop culture.  He opened new song “Cinderella Man” by acknowledging that he was getting a “second chance” and ultimately closed with “Lose Yourself,” perhaps an acknowledgment that he needs to prove himself worthy of his thousands of fans and star support.

Jay-Z Emerges at Yankee Stadium

As Eminem was surrounded by wrecked cars – literally climbing out of rubble – Jay-Z appeared throughout his set to be in control and supremely to be confident. Jay-Z emerged alone, in a single beam of light, surrounded by darkness, the center of attention.  Among gnashing guitars from his backup band and resonant chants of “Hova” from the audience, Jay-Z looked to the heavens (for the first of many times) and praised “Boss George” for new Yankee Stadium and then the whirlwind spectacle truly began, with Kanye West bursting on to the stage in a bright red suit with a over-sized gold necklace to join Jay-Z for “Run This Town,” “Power Remix,” “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” and “Good Life.”  The duo also was joined by Nicki Minaj for “Monster.”   Eminem reappeared to join Jay-Z for an awkward “Renegade” (with cathedral-like stained glass windows for a background) where Eminem’s voice, apparently without vocal backing tracks, sounded thin and was dwarfed by Jay-Z’s overpowering baritone.

Kanye West (Feat. Jay-Z Rick Ross Bon Iver and Nicki Minaj), Monster


After this opening flourish, Jay-Z slyly warned the audience that it was in store for an “historic night” and that there “would never be another night like this.” The next hour focused on Jay-Z, alone, traveling through over a decade of his personal narrative of triumph and loss.  During “99 Problems” (a useful primer on certain aspects of Criminal Procedure) two giant screens behind the stage played the black and white music video while projecting between them black and white live footage of Jay-Z, side-by-side in step with the younger version of himself.  Moments later, he cutoff “Big Pimpin” after the opening bars to tell the crowd to treat the night “like a carnival.”  He then led the audience in a countdown from ten to resume the song and bounce, Bounce, BOUNCE.

Jay-Z, 99 Problems

Before starting “Hardknock Life,” Jay-Z poignantly noted peers, predecessors and influences who met untimely deaths, ending with Notorious B.I.G. and, in homage, he performed “One More Chance” and “Juicy.”  For “Juicy” Jay-Z barely sang but instead, conducted the audience chanting the chorus.  The tribute portion of the show was capped with “A Dream” and then quickly returned to showmanship with “PSA” (with plenty of hands in the air) and firey guitar riffs.

During “Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love)” a smirking Jay-Z told the audience that his backup vocals were provided by Chris Martin (of Coldplay) who then sat at a piano and played the music for “Clocks” while Jay-Z supplied the lyrics from “Most Kingz” and segued into “Viva La Vida” (Jay-Z invited the audience to sing along as he enjoyed a brief impromptu Coldplay concert).  When Martin left the stage, Jay-Z quipped, “do y’all know what I needed to do to make that happen, New York?”

Jay-Z, Public Service Announcement (The Grey Album)

Jay-Z Feat. The Roots, Heart of the City (MTV Unplugged)

After Drake returned to join Jay-Z for “Miss Me” and a surprisingly lackluster “Light Up” the Stadium was rocking again with an appearance by a smiling but somehow emotionless Beyonce, who joined Jay-Z for “Young Forever,” and left Hova beaming and mumbling “damn, that girl tough.”  He feigned closing the set with “Empire State of Mind” and “Thank You;” instead he added an additional half hour of older material including “Jigga My Nigga,” and “Hova (Izzo).”  After an effusive thank you to the audience and praise for New York, the Yankees and Yankee Stadium and two sets the combined for over three hours of music, the lights came on. Unfortunately, Frank Sinatra’s “New York New York” did not play and the late Bob Shepherd did not hope everyone would “arrive home safely.”

PJ Bezanson practices law in New York (by day and by night) but catches as many concerts as he can. In August, he reviewed the Outside Lands music festival in San Francisco. He believes in human frailty, free coffee refills and Achtung Baby.

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6 Responses to "New York vs. Detroit – Jay-Z and Eminem at Yankee Stadium (Best of FP 2010)"

This is a really great post.

Phil – as a Jay-Z and Yankee fan – what do you think about the deal between the two to co-brand the rapper and the ball club? (You could now buy a ‘limited edition’ officially licensed Yankee jersey with “S. Carter” and the number 4 on the back, plus other items. See http://on.mtv.com/a0i7FW for more details.)

In a lot of ways the deal makes sense – they’re both NYC icons; there’s overlap between the rap and sports worlds; and there are some really prominent and obvious connections like some lyrics and the concert location. On the other hand, I always think of the Yankees as a very traditional franchise which is very steeped in tradition, and in many ways this smells like a big money-grab.

Any thoughts on this? I’m also curious what HOVA was wearing during the concert. Was he wearing one of the “S. Carter” jerseys?

Great review, Phil! Wish I could have been there…

[…] this year, with acts like Sleigh Bells and Chromeo. (For recent ad hoc duos featured on FP, see: Jay-Z and Eminem, the late Ali Farka Touré’s and Toumani Diabaté and Nas and Damien Marley, and Talib Kweli […]

[…] we’ve spilled a lot of ink on big national acts, from Arcade Fire to Sufjan Stevens to Young Hova himself.  But, fear not dear reader: we have not forgotten our roots. Nor have we forgotten that […]

[…] PJ Bezanson practices law in New York (by day and by night) but catches as many concerts as he can. He recently reviewed Of Montreal and Janelle Monae at Terminal 5 and Jay-Z and Eminem at Yankee Stadium. […]

[…] PJ Bezanson practices law in New York (by day and by night) but catches as many concerts as he can. He has reviewed many shows for FP, including Phoenix, Of Montreal and Janelle Monae, and Jay-Z and Eminem at Yankee Stadium. […]

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