Judge William Lee wants to know where the booty at?
"New York City, what the f**k is going on? Make some muthaf**kin' noise, yo!"
Let's open this review with a disclosure statement: I'm not a fan of Eminem and I don't listen to rap music. I know Eminem's, like, the biggest rap artist ever with a list of awards to his credit. From what I've heard about him in the entertainment media, he's the product of a tough childhood and he's the poster child of bad ex-boyfriends. The reported rivalries with other artists, lawsuits against celebrities and other tabloid-worthy behavior leave me uncertain whether Eminem has a deranged sense of humor or if he's a sociopath. The quick montage of images from his music videos that opens the program had me initially thinking the former, but nothing in his stage performance suggests wit or satire but, rather, lots of anger.
Eminem: Live from New York City was filmed at Madison Square Garden during the "Anger Management 3" tour of 2005 (although an electronic marquee says it's the "Encore" show) and televised uncensored by Showtime Networks. The white rapper from Detroit is joined on stage by Proof, Obie Trice, Stat Quo and the five-member D12 while The Alchemist spins from his elevated DJ booth. Here's the set list:
• Evil Deeds
Three pre-recorded "Backstage" segments introduce and interrupt the concert with a vague storyline where a paranoid Eminem prepares in his dressing room. I'm not sure if this narrative element featuring Slim Shady readying a gun is meant to be taken seriously, but it's pretty unconvincing drama. These segments are an odd fit with the concert footage unless we're to understand that he's thinking about suicide the whole time he's performing.
During the first few songs, Eminem's lyrical acrobatics are on full display. I'm not sure what he does that is especially unique among rappers but he seems to have a broader vocabulary than typical examples. There is definitely a sense of theatricality in the stage design that resembles the front of a three-storey building. This facilitates numerous entrances by the guest artists and Eminem's own wardrobe changes. Aside from one number, Eminem doesn't offer much in the way of dance moves. Perhaps those baggy track pants are impeding him, seeing as they constantly need adjusting at the crotch.
When Eminem's friends join the show, about 30 minutes in, it becomes more difficult to discern one song from the next. As a solo performer, Eminem has already dropped his fair share of F-bombs but with the stage crowded with fellow rappers the soundtrack is dominated by "f**k this" and "muthafu**kin' that." In one of his songs, Eminem declares, "You find me offensive? I find you offensive for finding me offensive." Well, I wasn't offended by the language so much as I was bored by the monotony of the swearing.
It's surprising how often the concert turns into a sing-along. The Alchemist frequently turns the volume way down so Eminem can prompt the audience to complete lines of the songs. Obviously, these fans know the words and they're game to participate. However, all the instrumental elements are playback—no live musicians—so when the DJ mutes the music we don't hear anything. Furthermore, the microphones at this event don't adequately record the audience so it means every now and again the soundtrack is almost silent. This interaction with the crowd was probably a great thing to witness for those who were there but watching it from this side of the screen, it has the appeal of listening to your stereo while some jackass randomly toys with the volume control.
Hamish Hamilton directs the concert film and, with 13 camera operators listed in the credits, there are plenty of angles covered. It's a professionally photographed concert and the camera positions anticipate the action so that the key moments are captured right on the mark. However, this also makes the performances feel somewhat mechanical and the overall effect of the concert is that of an exceedingly well-rehearsed show for the TV cameras—like an extended musical act at a televised awards show. The quick cutting between cameras contributes to the studio show atmosphere and negates the effect of being in the huge arena. The cameras focusing on the crowd's reaction do nothing to expand the size of the space, as it appears to be the same assortment of fans in front of the lens.
Eagle Rock Entertainment's Blu-ray presentation of Eminem: Live from New York City is another example of their solid catalogue of musical performances on disc. The HD image, in 1080i resolution, is quite satisfying but especially so when Eminem is standing under the appropriate lights. When colored lamps change the tone of the stage, the picture remains stable and free of color bleed. The angles on the audience exhibit a bit of grain that is likely the result of compensating for some darker video footage. Any other technical shortcomings in the image are covered up by the constant movement and fast editing. The three backstage segments look like they're shot with a cheaper camcorder and the footage doesn't look any better transferred to HD but those clips are short.
This Blu-ray disc offers three audio options. The uncompressed LPCM track is a fine stereo option that sounds loud and full. The Dolby Digital surround makes good use of all channels but the added subtleties in the DTS-HD surround mix, including the constant workout administered to the bass, make it the preferred way to hear the concert. During the numbers where Eminem shares the stage with other rappers, I found it harder to make out the lyrics. Were they singing "Where the booty at?" or "Where the food be at?" This may be the result of the live recording, the mastering to disc or simply my ears not being sensitive enough for rap lyrics.
Eminem: Live from New York City (Blu-ray) won't win the rapper many new fans. For those mofos and hoes already feeling the love for Eminem, this is a professional but cold performance of the artist's hits and it may have limited replay value.
Eminem's music is not for me but the strong video and audio presentation earns this disc an acquittal.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment
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