Eminem has played only a handful of shows in the U.S. since the release of 2009's Relapse, but he hasn't lost his ability to electrify an arena. The MC was greeted by a deafening roar last night when he joined Rihanna onstage at L.A.'s Staples Center for a pumped-up run through their Number One duet, "Love the Way You Lie." Emerging through a trap door in an all-black outfit, Em soaked up the crowd's love for a split-second, then launched into the first of the song's fiery verses, spitting his lyrics with a pent-up passion as visible as it was audible. The remarkable success of the rapper's new album, Recovery (which just marked its fourth week atop the Billboard 200), has made it pretty clear that Eminem still matters. But his superstar reception last night demonstrated just how vital he remains.
Rihanna didn't fare so badly herself, holding the audience's attention throughout a nearly two-hour show full of costume changes, video bits and complicated set pieces like the one in "Te Amo" that had a pair of scantily clad aerial dancers dangling from two giant machine guns. Military imagery cropped up regularly, from the pink tank Rihanna straddled while performing "Hard" to the gas-masked dancers flanking the singer during "SOS." Aggression was a general theme overall; near the end of "Shut Up and Drive" Rihanna pulled a young girl from the front row, gave her a bat and instructed her to beat the crap out of an old car that had appeared onstage. The singer also had Nuno Bettencourt of Extreme playing guitar, which gave much of the music a rowdy hard-rock vibe.
Yet there were plenty of quieter moments during the Last Girl on Earth show as well, such as "Rehab," which Rihanna sang while lying on a therapist's couch adorned with disembodied human limbs, and "Take a Bow," delivered after-hours-style from the lip of the stage. Following Eminem's appearance, the audience rippled with anticipation near the end of the concert when Rihanna's eight-piece band revved up "Run This Town," her hit collaboration with Jay-Z. Alas, Hova was a no-show. But the confetti shower that capped off "Umbrella" almost made up for it.
Opener Ke$ha, of course, didn’t need confetti to get the party started: She had a skeleton wearing a bra and two delightfully sleazy hipster dudes in stars-and-stripes Speedos. "Can I hear it for my dancers' balls?" the singer asked, concluding her 30-minute set with a boisterous take on her smash "Tik Tok." Happily, L.A. let the balls hear it.
Rihanna Set List:
"Shut Up and Drive"
"Hate That I Love You"
"Stupid in Love"
"Pon de Replay"
"Don't Stop the Music"
"Breakin' Dishes"/"The Glamorous Life"
"Take a Bow"
"Love the Way You Lie"
"Wait Your Turn"
"Live Your Life"
"Run This Town"
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