- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 7, 2005

One thing’s for certain about Eminem: he has a lot of nerve.

The Anger Management 3 Tour — featuring rap giant 50 Cent and the cartoonish Lil’ Jon and the Eastside Boyz — hit the Nissan Pavilion Friday, and headliner Eminem was in a randy mood. Amid the will-he-or-won’t-he retirement rumors, Em had something else in mind to get off his chest.

“I’d like to take this moment to formally apologize to Michael Jackson,” said the rapper, whose Jackson-jabbing video for “Just Lose It” earned the gloved one’s ire last year. “I’ve been a fan of his since I was yea high. Thank God he didn’t know it.”

Wearing a surgical mask while walking on scaffolding above the stage, Eminem proceeded to chuck a horde of baby dolls into the sea of gleefully cheering teens. Those older than 25 were momentarily frozen, mildly stunned by what they had just witnessed.

As weird as the moment was, it effectively summarized the difference between Eminem’s sets and those of his touring partner, 50 Cent. While 50 — hardly averse to occasional promotional stunts himself — made his mark with his music, Eminem’s antics ended up overshadowing his performance.

But to Em’s credit, he has to tightrope-walk the line between artistic respect and commercial success much more carefully since he has what is arguably the most polarized and schizophrenic fan base of any popular musician.

But peer esteem doesn’t pay the bills. The Total Request Live crowd made him a multimillionaire and hordes of shrieking teenaged girls packing the venue were definitely in the majority Friday.

One of Eminem’s more serious moments came during his anti-Bush administration “Mosh” rant as someone wearing a George Bush mask promenaded across the scaffolding to hearty boos from the crowd.

Then it was back to sophomoric antics: mooning the audience while simulating flatulence, etc.. Although he addressed rumors about his impending retirement in the abhorred tabloids, he steered clear of addressing the pesky accusations of racism that the hip hop magazine The Source has continuously lobbed at him.

Eminem eschewed performing “The Real Slim Shady” and other staples, or else cut them short, preferring to devote far too much set time to his crew of hangers-on. Granted, his crew is the double-platinum rap group D12, but you’d be hard-pressed to find more seemingly anonymous entertainers. Fans could actually be heard trying to identify the performers.

The lone standout was the portly, aptly-named Bizarre, distinguished only by his glittery, full-length robe and matching cowboy hat. The group’s performance — Eminem’s included — was muffled and barely decipherable, though it mattered little to the fans who rhymed along with every word.

The saving grace was when Obie Trice, one of the better lyricists in Eminem’s camp, performed a high energy version of his humorous hit, “Got Some Teeth.”

After pretending to end his set with “Just Lose It,” Eminem drove the crowd into a frenzy with an encore performance of “Lose Yourself” from his blockbuster film “8 Mile.” But, once it was over, it was all instantly forgettable, as if you had to remind yourself you were even there.

On the other hand, 50’s no-frills set was surprisingly lean, as he meticulously tore through his hit-filled catalog. Love or hate the guy, his charisma and stage presence are infectious. You’ll find yourself nodding along to songs that you don’t even like.

Besides, any non-headlining performer who rocks a crowd has to be respected, and that was the case for 50 Cent, especially during his monster hit “In da Club,” when the floor was actually shaking.

His set provided the most electric hip-hop moment of the night after he brought out New York underground favorites and recent G Unit signees M.O.P. and Mobb Deep, who eerily went into their 1999 hit “Quiet Storm” as rumbles of thunder began echoing through the pavilion. The atmosphere was so electric that much of the crowd jumped up to dance, despite being largely unfamiliar with the Mobb.

Of course, 50’s G Unit cohorts were in tow as well. But unlike D12, 50’s crew performed songs most of the audience had actually heard before or are likely to hear in a nightclub or on the radio.

50’s act was a true show-stealing performance. If Eminem isn’t careful, he’s going to get upstaged for the rest of the tour, which will really give him something to rant about.

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