Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Eminem flexes his pop muscle, brings fireworks to ACL

Ramon Ramirez

Eminem is still rapping about his absentee father, Saddam Hussein, Biggie’s unsolved murder, former Kansas City Chiefs coaches, Ricky Martin. He’s still attacking George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and, regrettably, using gay slurs. Unlike OutKast’s brilliant Friday ACL greatest hits highlight reel, the Marshall Mathers Saturday parade was 31 songs of modern rock star.

Dressed in youthful black shorts, zip-up hoodie, and cap, Eminem remains a household pop culture commodity, and his stadium show packed sardines around the Samsung Galaxy stage. His recent collaborations with chart-toppers like Rihanna, Haley Williams, and Drake made it rain–“Forever,” specifically, came packaged with Super Bowl pyrotechnics.

“Stan’s” Dido-sampling hook made the flower crown girls sway on blankets; he tweaked a lyric to pander and everyone swooned at Em rapping “remember when we met in Austin?”

“Sing for the Moment,” which samples Aerosmith’s “Dream On,” substituted as hand-waving arena hit.

There was plenty of ring kissing for hip-hop lifers, however. Mr. Porter played deft hype man. Longtime fans got a Royce da 5’9” guest appearance for “Fast Lane,” and verbal nods to fallen icons Proof, Nate Dogg (“‘Til I Collapse”), Tupac, and Biggie. Most thrillingly, he stacked beloved “Slim Shady LP” b-sides “Just Don’t Give a F*ck” and “Still Don’t Give a F*ck” back to back.

Visually, maybe a pinch too literal. A Dreamworks animated film-level haunted house flashed during “Monster.” Some factory assembly line images were shown during “Business.” The drummer’s bass drum had a stenciled on middle finger. Most dreadfully, a mockumentary depicting the fictional little brother from “Stan,” Matthew, as a rapper-kidnapping murderer preempted the performance.

Predictably, Em put crayons to chaos late as debut smash “My Name Is,” king-making “The Real Slim Shady,” (real weak to leave in the supremely dated gag sound effect that drops after the lyric “there’s no reason that a man and another man can’t elope”), and 2002 summer smash “Without Me,” stacked at the finish line.

Then in a rare moment of vulnerable grace, he dedicated “Not Afraid” to

“anybody in this crowd tonight that’s ever lost somebody to addiction.”

He saved the Oscar-winning (!) “Lose Yourself,” for a veritable folding chair-packing gotcha encore. There was more than enough of Eminem’s all ages suburban dread to go around.