It's a good thing Limp Bizkit aren't touring under the "Family Values" banner anymore. Sometimes it's better to skip the nudge and wink and call things straight -- hence the no-bullshit moniker for this year's model, the Anger Management Tour. Consider the line-up: West Coast battle-rapper Xzibit, who was abused as a child; Papa Roach, who sing heartfelt, noisy anthems of teen suicide and broken homes; and Limp's co-headliner Eminem, whose venomous raps about his estranged mother and his now-estranged wife have landed him in the courtroom.
Needless to say, there was more than enough anger to go around for the sold-out crowd at the tour's opening night at the Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J. Just how much of it the crowd could actually manage was another story.
The first blast of rage came from Xzibit, whose gravel-like vocals moved stealthily yet forcefully to the grittiest of beats. Although the rapper spent less than half an hour venting his deadly diatribes on stage, it gave everyone a firsthand glimpse of the darkness waiting to be unveiled come December when his new album drops.
Papa Roach's high-voltage set, which was almost as short as Xzibit's, was diluted by cluttered sound. Coby Dick's agonized outcries had trouble breaking free from the distorted acoustics that were blasted by his bandmates. But when the group sounded off with the anthemic "Last Resort," the crowd completely took over, helping boost the troubled set.
When both the floor and the seats swelled up with a sea of red baseball caps and fake Slim Shadys, the arena was at capacity for the remainder of the night. After a Blair Witch-meets-Slim Shady video was played to introduce Eminem's set, the curtains dropped and Marshall Mathers appeared on stage sporting overalls, holding a chainsaw, wearing a white hockey mask and standing in front of a wooden house and a yard. When he pulled his mask off, the cheers rose to ear-splitting levels; Eminem greeted them with "I'm Back" and the audience chanted the chorus aloud and in unison. Slim's partner-in-rhyme Proof shuffled across the stage with him, as the DJ dropped the beats from the house's cracked-open rooftop.
As Em and Proof swaggered from east to west, Eminem pointed at the house and said, "This is the house I grew up in. I'm gonna invite some friends to come out and play." On that note, his group D-12 stormed out the shack's front door to perform the moronically infectious "Under the Influence" and their belligerent new single, "I'll Shit on You." Spraying unlimited vulgarities and ranting with a synergetic aura, D-12 did the impossible: They showed that Eminem is not alone in his dangerously off-the-tracks train of thought. They even did a quick a cappella spoof of 'N Sync's "Tearing Up My Heart" ("It's tearing up my ass when I'm with you!").
When D-12 took a break, Eminem invited English songstress Dido out on stage to duet on the heart-wrenching rap ballad "Stan." But the tempo was a major deceleration from what D-12 ignited just moments before, and it took awhile to adjust to the change in pace. It didn't go unnoticed that Eminem sang every verse in "Stan" except for the last one, wherein the sensitive-guy within him responds to the namesake's letter. His mood tonight was more along the lines with the following song, "I Just Don't Give a Fuck."
Surprisingly, Eminem didn't bring any Christina Aguilera or ICP blow-up dolls on stage, but he still had plenty to say about someone else. "How many faggots in here like Whitey Ford?" he asked the crowd. "If you like Whitey Ford, I want y'all to take the dicks out of your asses and wave them in the air! That mothafucka dissed me on an album, so I dissed him back." The crowd's faint cheer, however, sounded more like a mockery than applause. And although heads began bobbing in synch to the potent "Drug Ballad" and the groove-laden "Cum On Everybody," there wasn't much excitement when Eminem urged the crowd between beats to chant "Take them drugs!" Credit the crowd this much: By the time his two-hour set was over, most everyone seemed to have a grasp on the difference between ill and sick.
But there was still one more drill. The appetite for some Chocolate Starfish and Hot Dog Flavored Water was evident, and Limp Bizkit seemed to be the ones cheesy enough to deliver it. On the heels of a heavily anticipated album release and armed with a larger-than-life robot as a stage, Fred and company waltzed out before charging into a monstrous set, sounded off by his ode to Trent Reznor, "Hot Dog." Aside from some new material, which included his hip-hop collaboration with Xzibit ("Getcha Groove On"), the new stage design and a group of dancing Bizkettes surrounding him during a couple of numbers, Durst led the audience through the same old flashy routine. Although he took no stabs at Creed frontman Scott Stapp this time, Durst too spit venom. "Christina Aguilera is a fucking bitch!" he exclaimed, dedicating one of his hate songs to her. "I did her a fucking favor and she turned around and started talkin' shit," he continued before referring to her as a "fuckin' whore."
The crowd couldn't help but guffaw. And perhaps the lesson learned from this case of anger management is that laughter is the best medicine.