Eminem, Milton Keynes Bowl

C'mon Em! Drop the funfair and bring back the outrage
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The Independent Culture

He's the leading pop icon of his generation, the undisputed Elvis of his era, and for many of the 65,000 fans who attend his concert, it's clearly enough just to be sharing the same postcode with him, however briefly.

It's disappointing, however, that the creator of such vivid, edgy, and often hilarious lyrical entertainments couldn't devise some more satisfying way of presenting them than The Eminem Show. But then, hip-hop has always struggled for conviction as a concert attraction, its very format dispensing with such staple distractions of live rock'n'roll as the ludicrous stage outfit and the guitar solo.

In past shows, Eminem has sought to liven things up with props and masks designed to elicit outrage from the upstanding guardians of public morality but this time there is just a funfair-themed backdrop featuring a giant eye and a ferris wheel picked out in flashing lights. Once the star has alighted from the ferris wheel gondola in which he first appears, the entire stage set plays no further part in the proceedings.

From that point on, the show becomes like a pep rally. After a few numbers during which the majority of the audience seem more concerned with the important business of phoning their friends and holding up their mobiles to give them a tantalising taste of what they're missing, things settle into a familiar round of sing-a-long chants, the predominantly white, suburban, middle-class crowd happily bawling along with threats like "You don't/Wanna fuck with Shady/'Cos Shady/Will fuckin' kill you".

At various times in the show, Eminem is joined by his outsize posse D12, or by fellow rappers Obie Trice (who wears a headband bearing his own name in big capital letters, the sad man) and 50 Cent.

None of them adds much to the sum of human happiness. Though blessed with an impressive physique, 50 Cent is just a routine production-line gangsta-rapper with a doo-rag head-hanky and a surly attitude; the three-song mini-set he and his posse G-Unit do on their own manages to kill the show stone dead, leaving Eminem struggling to re-animate the crowd again when he returns.

"Let's take it back to 8 Mile real quick," he blurts when the interlopers finally leave, restoring some of the singalong spirit with a rousing "Lose Yourself". One element which has been retained from standard rock'n'roll shows is the ritual lighters-aloft moment during the set's closing number Sing for the Moment after which Eminem, presumably trying to effect a quick exit to escape the traffic jams of this 'Wilderness Of A Thousand Roundabouts', barely pauses for breath before dashing through encores of Without Me and My Dad's Gone Crazy - the latter cleverly delivered as a video duet with a virtual, cartoon version of his daughter Hailie.

It's a rare intrusion of humour into a set which, for all its flashing lights and punchy beats, is ultimately rather less fun than it promises.

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