Rock out with your cock out: Eminem X Rihanna descend to the Rose Bowl

By Michael Traversa

IMG_1290_mod Note:  This is a review of Night 2 from the front row.

So The Monster Tour finally opened with two sold out shows at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. It all starts with a short film that depicts Eminem as a modern Hannibal Lecter and Rihanna as the savior coming to his rescue. When the two finally appear on stage, lifted up by two moving platforms, Eminem is still tied up to an hospital bed. Yup, you know this. When those two came together for a massive stadium tour I just knew there will be humor and irony along with the music. Eminem in particular is a master of sarcasm. Friday night he even recited a whole monologue from the movie Superbad, which was hilarious.

In the beginning they go through some of the songs that features more than one voice on the track (Numb, No Love) followed by the most obvious choice for starter aimed at inciting the crowd: (we are gonna) Run this town (tonight)! Then the show appears to be divided into two clear blocks, a full show from each, with a few forays into each others. Basically Rihanna’s show followed pretty much the setlist of her Diamonds World Tour. And unfortunately it suffers from the same problems I pointed out for the Diamonds tour back then: only snippets of many favorite hits, too much use of backing tracks for the chorus, heavy on the hip hop tracks from Unapologetic, while other songs from the same album are better. For various reasons (Pasadena’s curfew? Better show flow?) she eliminated three songs from night 1, among those Man Down which is one of my ultimate favorites. In fact I’ll go as far as saying that she should make a whole reggae record, more in synch with traditional music of the Barbados. One of those songs was replaced by Only Girl, which she did not perform on night 1. In the final count it comes down to two songs difference and one substitute.

Rihanna seemed confident, seductive and held everybody’s attention in the palm of her hand. She appeared playful and happy to sing on every song, despite some criticism. I can see how somebody from afar may think of lip synching. Both Rihanna and Eminem sang live but, especially in Rihanna’s case, there was a heavy use of backing tracks. When it’s her voice on the chorus coming out of a backing track, (something that a backup singer could do instead), it produces a strange effect. When she pulls the mike away to let the people sing, her voice can still be heard. This is something that unfortunately started with the last tour, but she is still singing all the verses live.

The highlights were obviously the joint performances and it was remarkable how Love The Way You Lie Part II and the original were blended seamlessly into one so to pass the baton from one act to the other. I suspect Eminem did his average setlist from his latest tour as well. Eminem is a riot, he is like a crazy ball, never still in one spot, he keeps jumping left and right. He too played along his image, attacking the songs aggressively, and joking in the more ironic ones, especially the early hits of the first LP. Well Mr Mathers, you are a Rap God. Funny how his hype man Mr Porter pointed out at wasted people in the front to which Mr Mathers replied, “Just because I can’t do drugs doesn’t mean you can’t“. Also in the case of Eminem I didn’t like some songs being truncated. In Stan, for example, he cut out the whole final verse (the part where Stan drives off the cliff and Shady’s response to the letter). Nevertheless it sounded even more haunting with Rihanna on the chorus. The choice of Airplanes over Lighters was odd, since neither one of them penned the song, but I guess Eminem’s verse on the second version of the tune was enough to grant a spot in the setlist.

The bottom line is whenever they shared the stage the monster came alive. In the end they alternated their most influential hits (We found love, Lose yourself) leading into the titular song, complete of fireworks and flipping the bird.

Mylo Xyloto

By Michael Traversa

Coldplay have done it again. After the massive success achieved with Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, the album that catapulted them into the greatest bands realm it wasn’t easy to keep the momentum. Mission accomplished thanks to the band’s credo of always setting new goals, believing in a full concept record instead of scattered singles (which seems to be the way of choice in the iTunes era) and testing the new material in a neverending tour, an extension of the latest one.

Our review comes after the album has been in rotation for a few months as we believe in giving the music several listening before forming an opinion. Call it slow music (a la slow food) if you wish. We like Coldplay also because they firmly believe the order of the tracklist matters. The position of a song within the album can completely change what you’re trying to say and the way you want to say it. It changes the mood, the flow and ultimately can differentiate a good work from a great work.

Starting with the short intro of Mylo Xyloto, which gives the title to the record, the boys get right into it with the energetic Hurts like heaven. The choice of constantly switching the beat from mid tempo to ballads and fast ones turns the experience into a flawless listening. The current single, the dreamy Paradise is already a staple in Coldplay’s body of work and on the album is followed by the ready for arena anthem Charlie Brown.
By the time the thumping beat of Every teardrop is a waterfall, courtesy of unsung hero Will Champion, hits the ears we are captivated.
The work reaches its peak in the collaboration with Rihanna (everything she touches these days is gold) which could have easily missed the mark. Instead Princess of China perfectly marries the voice of Chris Martin and one of the barbadian artist for what could be interpreted as a follow up to monster hit Viva la Vida (“I could have been a princess, you’d be a king. Could have had a castle and worn a ring”) while being an exotic metaphor of a relationship gone wrong. Cue the delicate Up in flames and you got a perfect bridge between past and future of the band.

Coldplay matured a great ability to tell stories (here the concept tale of two rebellious kids in a futuristic environment), ability to give characters life and to permeate the lyrics with instant quotes, “I struggle with the feeling that my life isn’t mine”, “Life goes on, it gets so heavy”, “I’d rather be a comma than a full stop”, and with words that chase each other into the songs. The presence of genial producer Brian Eno behind the scenes can only enhance the band’s sound and bring them to their full potential.
Grade: A