D12 with Eminem, Shepherd's Bush Empire, London

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The Independent Culture

Sometimes rumours do turn out to true. On Thursday, Eminem did perform for the first time in the UK with his Detroit posse, though D12 were not up to the challenge.This was the hip- hop group that Eminem started out with on his way to fame as Slim Shady. Once established as a player, Marshall Mathers brought them back into his fold. In 2001, he produced and rapped on their debut album, Devil's Night, that featured the bouncing, addictive hit "Purple Pills".

Sometimes rumours do turn out to true. On Thursday, Eminem did perform for the first time in the UK with his Detroit posse, though D12 were not up to the challenge.This was the hip-hop group that Eminem started out with on his way to fame as Slim Shady. Once established as a player, Marshall Mathers brought them back into his fold. In 2001, he produced and rapped on their debut album, Devil's Night, that featured the bouncing, addictive hit "Purple Pills".

Now the group's comeback single places them firmly in the soap opera that provides a framework for Eminem's most compelling songs. On "My Band", he and the other five rappers make light of how much more attention he gets.

Eminem himself was at pains to avoid hogging the spotlight. As most of the group arrived one by one for the opening number "Shit Can Happen", the star of the show sneaked on mid-verse, with a baseball cap pulled low over his blond hair.

Meanwhile, man- mountain MC Bizarre, almost a mascot for the band in his trademark shower cap, came on for the third number to just as riotous a welcome.

Happy to trade raps with his peers, this was a subdued performance for hip hop's most notorious protagonist, who a couple of days earlier had mooned on prime-time German television. Twice.

Yet all the time he was on stage, for every song bar two, Eminem was a magnetic presence. Although dwarfed by his taller and broader peers, every jerky movement commanded attention and betrayed some kind of pent-up frustration or anger.

Moreover, Eminem's vocal abilities were head and shoulders above the rest of D12. Despite the usual poor sound quality for a hip-hop gig, his sharp delivery and intricate rhymes- within-lines surpassed D12's average fare. What the group did provide, though, was nigh on an hour's worth of implacable energy.

D12 had previously tempered their macho posturing with shock hop, a mix of ultra-violence and sexual perversity too over-the-top to be taken seriously. On new numbers, especially "40 Ounce" and D12 World's title track, they have gone for a tougher, snarling attitude. This was mirrored in a sparse, metallic sound that cut through the soupy PA. It included a thrilling dip into booty bass, the sped-up hip hop beloved of Detroit and Miami that sounds like techno meeting drum'n'bass.

Only at the very end did any of the band come close to matching Eminem for vigour and style. They returned for "Purple Hills", with one member engaging in a spot of crowd surfing, the same rapper who, moments earlier, had leant so far into a yearning crowd that he only escaped by sacrificing his anorak.

At the close, "My Band" was a dizzying blur, as each member raced around the stage and took turns to say his piece. All we missed was hearing the actual rhymes.

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