Jay-Z/Eminem Show Lives Up to Hype
Anyone driving into Detroit Thursday evening could tell: The Eminem and Jay-Z show was going to be more than just a concert. Vendors greeted concert-goers on highways outside of Downtown, selling t-shirts with the rappers' faces on the front. Fans called it “the event of a lifetime” and speculated about surprise guests – Snoop Dogg? Rihanna? — as they walked to Comerica Park. Then, the 40,000 plus crowd, which was covered in Detroit gear, went into the sold-out stadium to witness an epic show.
Thursday's concert set off a series of four shows, only to be played in Detroit (September 2 and 3) and New York (September 13 and 14). The series has received national media attention since May, when Jay-Z and Eminem announced the event live on ESPN and Fox. Since then, the concerts have been the subject of endless national radio contests and seen pre-show coverage ranging from local Detroit publications, to VH1, MTV and Rolling Stone. What made Thursday's show even more exciting for Detroiters, was that it was Eminem's first appearance at Comerica since 2005, which he followed with time in drug rehab. (More on Time.com: See pictures of Detroit's beautiful, horrible decline)
Jay-Z, the first headliner to hit the stage, told the crowd, “I like how this is going, Detroit. Feels like a special night.” The fans liked how it was going, too. Jay-Z played the songs everyone wanted to hear, covering everything from his newer Empire State of Mind, to classics like Big Pimpin', 99 Problems and Hard Knock Life. And he didn't do it alone. Special guest Young Jeezy surprised fans, when he joined Jay-Z for a few songs in the beginning of the set.
Toward the end of the show's first-half, Jay-Z said, “I feel at home tonight.” He was one of many. Regardless of where people came from, there was an overwhelming sense of home pride in the stadium. Fans held up flags from Lebanon and Mexico. Eminem's concert merchandise represented not only Detroit, but all of Michigan. Fans bought shirts that looked like Tigers' jerseys and others that combined the University of Michigan and Michigan State's logos with Eminem's. (More on Time.com: See 10 things to do in Detroit)
Jay-Z ended his performance by saying: “This was one of the best experiences of my life.” He wasn't alone. The concert was only half-way through, and Heather O'Connor, a 33-year-old fan from San Diego, already knew the experience was worth it. “I love the energy of all the people in one area coming together,” she said. “This is about all of us coming here and building off of that energy. I just feel so happy to be here.”
Then, came the moment fans had been waiting for. The words: “You are all here to witness Eminem's recovery” filled the screens above the stage, and out he came, with an Olde English D on his shirt. “Detroit, I'm back,” Eminem said. “Did you miss me or what? I missed y'all, too. It feels good to be back.” Eminem played hits from his latest album, Recovery, while making sure to please, with classics like Without Me, I'm Sorry Mama and Lose Yourself. During The Real Slim Shady, he got to the lyrics “And Dr. Dre said…” and stopped. Fans screamed as Dr. Dre appeared on stage. Other guest performers ranged from 50 Cent, to D12, Drake, Trick Trick and B.O.B. (who also opened the show). (More on Time.com:See a TIME special on how Detroit lost its way)
Images of Detroit filled the screens during Eminem's performance. And the rapper wasn't shy about his love for the city. Toward the end, he said: “I just wanna' take a second to thank you for not giving up on me…especially you, Detroit. I love you.” Kimberlee Nancekivell, a 21 year old from Toronto, is only one of the fans who love him back. As the crowd left Comerica, Nancekivell stuck around with a smile on her face. “It was amazing,” she said. “It was the first time I've ever seen Eminem in concert - I've always wanted to. There were so many people that I didn't expect to come. It was just a really good concert.”