Let’s get one thing straight before we go any further, shall we? I LOVE black people. In fact, some of my family are Blacks.
Now, considering this is supposed to be an anonymous blog, I realise that that last statement could be misconstrued as the musing of some patronising middle-class, middle-aged white man from somewhere like Northern Ireland where black people are very few and far between and where racism can sit easily alongside all the bigotry.
Then again, considering that the only people that know about this blog are friends and family, you will all be acutely aware that both those sentences work on so many levels. What can I say? It’s how I roll.
I do also realise however, that there is an (admittedly very slight) chance that you could have stumbled across this corner of cyberspace all on your own. In which case, welcome Dear Anonymous Reader, I congratulate you on your powers of fortitude and perseverance that saw you squirrel your way into this corner of the interweb, when we both know that there is so much more you could be doing with your precious online time.
Having said all this, strap yourselves in for a wee story about how it came to pass, that I, a middle-class, middle-aged white man with the surname Black from Northern Ireland (let all the frikkin’ cats out of the bag there, didn’t I?) ended up at an Eminem gig last night.
But before I do, let’s go back in time for a moment. Mid-1990, to be exact.
“Roads, Marty? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” (Yep, gratuitous and completely unnecessary Back to the Future reference there)
In mid-1990 many things were happening in my life. For a start, I had just turned 18, a landmark event in anyone’s life. I was studying at a college in Belfast for a year and I was also working part-time. All incredibly adult pursuits, I’m sure you’d agree.
Musically, however, I was a mere child. Being the eldest of three meant that a lot of my musical taste was forged all on my own. A fact made all the more startlingly obvious by sharing with all three of you Readers that my first ever gig was Norwegian pop beat combo, Aha, at the Kings Hall, Belfast.
Moving swiftly on.
As swiftly, it has to be said, as my taste in music moved on. The next gig I went to less than a year after finding myself in joining in the cacophony of Northern Irish adolescents screaming “We want Aha! We want Aha! We want Aha!” was the gobfest that was New York thrash metal combo, Anthrax, performing in Bangor Leisure Centre.
Time stands still for no man, Marty. (Not even sure if that is a quote from Back to the Future but it feels like it should be, so let’s keep it in, shall we?)
Independently of my own forays into the Pandora’s Box of music that the world has to offer, I naturally had the musical tastes of my parents to influence me. And for them, I have to thank for the likes of The Beatles, Jethro Tull and Marc Bolan (mother) and Rolling Stones, The Animals, Bob Dylan (father) being on my musical radar from a very early age.
But music is a never-ending journey. Trends come and go. Indeed, the very first album that I bought was “Prince Charming” by Adam and the Ants and wherethe eff is he, these days?
So, like a human sponge, I started devouring all kinds of music and, upon reflection, I guess it was only a matter of time before this naïve, wee country boy from Northern Ireland made the progression from New York thrash metal to New York hip hop, in the form of Public Enemy.
Actually, thanks to “Bring the Noise”, a musical collaborationbetween the two bands, the leap from thrash to hip hop wasn’t as big as you might think.
And, so it came to pass that I found myself on a bus home from Belfast one day, nursing a vinyl (Google it, younger Readers) copy of the seminal Public Enemy album, “Fearof a Black Planet,” a brilliant choice for a first-time dip into the magical world of American Hip Hop, if ever there was.
To say I loved the album would be a rather bland description of how I felt about this piece of modern musical art and for weeks, I played the album to absolute death. Even now, as I type these words whilst listening to it for aul’ time’s sake, I have to say it is a timeless classic.
But, along with death and taxes, another thing that is certain is that the never-ending soundtrack of your life will grow and evolve as you follow on its journey and it wasn’t long before I was spending my hard-earned cash on the likes of Metallica, Megadeth and Sepultura, the last of which I am now listening to. Crunching Brazilian speed metal? Yes please.
As an interesting side-note to this indulgent Trip Down Memory Lane, my younger brother whole-heartedly embraced the world of rap, thanks in no small part to the aforementioned Fear of a Black Planet and I can safely say that he is now the whitest black man I know, to the point of wanting to name his first-born Tupac.
But I digress.
Let’s jump back into the DeLorean, Marty, and head Back to the Future to the year 2014 – a world that is sadly bereft of hoverboards, flying cars and self-tying laces. Although it seems that in the year 2015, we’ll all be able to enjoy at leastone of those. What times we live in, eh?
And, to follow on in a similar vein, what times we live in when one of the biggest rap stars the world has ever seen is the poster boy for white trailer trash itself, none other than Marshal “Eminem” Mathers III.
Bet you never saw that one coming, Marty.
Yesterday evening, Eminem brought his Rapture Road Show juggernaut to my doorstep and it seemed only polite of me to go and join in the fun. Now normally Suncorp Stadium, or “The Colosseum” as I like to refer to it, is where I go to indulge in my other great love, watching sport, and it holds very many special memories for me.
On a slight tangent, a girl I was seeing briefly last year dumped me because of my love of sport saying, and I quote, “How can you waste so much of your life watching sport? There’s a whole big world out there with many experiences to enjoy, instead of wasting it watching sport.”
Well, excuse me!
Some of my finest experiences in life have been thanks to my passion for sport and in my recent history, Suncorp Stadium has played host to many of them. Grand Final wins, State of Origin wins, British and Irish Lions wins have all been born in this iconic stadium and I wouldn’t change it for the world. And all this in a stadium that is less than 3kms from where I live.
Every year Suncorp Stadium also plays host to some of the world’s largest music acts and in my time in Brisbane, the list includes Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Robbie Williams, Bon Jovi, Andre Rieu and, erm, Taylor Swift.
But, until last night, I had never been to a gig in the place. It seems strange to be saying that, considering how much time I have spent there over the past few years but it came to pass last night, that I stood wide-eyed on the Hallowed Turf, staring around me in wonder at how my second home had been transformed into Eminem’s personal fiefdom.
It was a fantastic sight to behold.
There were several acts on the bill: M-Phazes, 360, Action Bronson, J Cole, Kendrick Lamar and finally, the main man himself but, considering the show started at 4pm on a school day and we all have to earn a crust to be able to pay for these nights out, my friends and I missed everyone else on the bill, opting for the more comfortable confines of The Paddo Tavern’s smoking section.
Reasonably priced, full strength drinks, an awesome smoking section, conversing in the company of good friends whilst sitting on comfortable seats are a hard thing to compete with for our attention and, with the exception of Kendrick Lamar, there wasn’t much desire from my friends and I to leave for Suncorp, just a few short minutes’ walk down the road.
To be fair, we did try and see Kendrick Lamar but considering the whole “herding cats” thing, trying to co-ordinate a group of pleasantly pissed, excited adults proved a task too much and, as we arrived into the stadium we heard the last couple of his songs as we were queuing for our drinks.
Sorry about that one, Kendrick.
And so, with enough alcohol in our systems to loosen up limbs and tongues, we picked our spot in amongst the Baggy Shorted Flat Brim Capped Brigade and settled in for the Main Event itself.
Now, rappers as a rule don’t do modesty. We all know that. And once you make it as one of the biggest fish in this Sea of Bling, all bets are off. The stage show itself had everything you would expect: dazzling lights, massive screens, bucket loads of energy. And fire, lots of fire.
The one thing that it did not have, however, was a decent sound set-up. Suffice to say, from where we were stood, the sound was shit, which is all the more strange, given that we were less than ten metres away from a massive speaker tower; although upon reflection, it was behind us blasting out towards the back of the stadium, which might account for the somewhat muffled tunes that we experienced. Still a surprise though, considering that Eminem’s style has always been based on his clear, crisp machine-gun delivery.
That whinge aside, Eminem delivered all that you could possibly want in his 90-minute, 26-song set including new songs ‘Survival’ and ‘Bezerk’, older anthems like ‘White America’ and ‘Stan,’ as well as a medley of his three biggest hits ‘My Name Is’, ‘The Real Slim Shady’ and ‘Without Me’.
Suffice to say, I still managed to get my wigger on with the rest of the crowd and everyone enjoyed the whole spectacle. I did note, however, that Eminem’s back-up rapper (no idea who he was) seemed to do a lot of the work. A regular thing in the world of rap, I was reliably informed by a mate.
Highlight of the evening for me – and for many others it seemed – was “Lose Yourself.” Top tune and to see the capacity crowd at Suncorp bouncing along to that epic track was a sight that will live long in the memory.
So, a big shout goes out to my man Eminem for coming to ma hood and rapping the shit out of it for me and my mates and about 45,000 others. A top night out!
Now, I hope you’ll all excuse me as I go off to shop for a flat brimmed cap.
February 2014, Brisbane.