During the long break between 50-Cent’s set and the arrival of Marshall Bruce Mathers 3rd, aka Slim Shady and Eminem, I visited with William, the tattooed guy sitting to my left in Section 380 at the Pepsi Center, five rows from the top. He looked like the only other person among the nearly 20,000 concert-goers who might be from my generation, so I figured he’d know who the Beatles were. “Yeah, I remember seeing them at Suffolk Downs in Boston in 1966,” I bragged. He looked at me with new respect and said, “I wasn’t even BORN then!”
“Concert” may be too strong a word for an Eminem performance. What it amounts to is a buff white guy strutting around a stage screaming unintelligible words to the accompaniment of a bass line so strong it literally makes your heart palpitate, even in Section 380. But the eerie thing was that the 20,000 fans seemed to know every word. They broke into ecstatic cheers at the first few thumps of a new beat, recognizing the song and shouting along. Myself, I did actually recognize a few numbers, because I sometimes listen to Eminem when I’m writing, to crank up the creative juices. I am one of 8 million people who bought his latest CD, Encore, since it was released eight months ago. At Bennington, my MFA graduating lecture was a comparison of Eminem and another outrageous and outrageously popular wordsmith, Lord Byron. I do believe that Mr. Mathers, a high school dropout who has created his different personas with skill reminiscent of Byron, is talented. But I don’t know enough about rap to judge his artistic output. All I know is that he
helps me break through when I’m feeling writer’s block.
When I saw last week that Slim Shady was coming to my neighborhood, I snapped up a ticket on the internet. But what does a 54-year-old non-buff book reviewer and poet wear to an Eminem concert? I had a vague sense that it’s about sweatpants, so I pulled out a gray pair I’ve used for workouts. My black Picasso t-shirt seemed to go okay, and for the photo before I left the apartment, I turned my Harvard ballcap around. Out on the street, it felt too weird, and I shifted it back to bill-on-front, slightly at an angle.
On the way into my row, a girl offered me a lit joint of marijuana, which I declined with what I hoped was a cool grunt. The fan on the other side of me, Dwayne, was smoking plenty of weed, and probably had been drinking, because he kept listing over, crashing into me a couple of times as we were all standing to see the show. Later he hit a subdued mood and sat down in an empty aisle seat a few rows lower. The crowd was mainly white, and mainly law-abiding, although William told me he’d seen someone with a bloody face running away from someone out by the beer stands, followed by the police. I, like everyone else, had stood spread-eagle for a light pat-down at the entrance to the Pepsi Center, but I was smart and had left my Swiss Army pocketknife and brass knuckles at home. Three women behind me in Section 380 were having a conversation not focused on gansta rap or mindless violence. “They put a contract on one of those brownstones,” one woman said, “but I don’t think she should buy it.” Later another of the women was telling a story that included this: “I said to him, ‘So if you guys got married would Killer be my dog?’ And Larry’s like, ‘Sure.’”
I walked home at midnight and didn’t’ get much sleep but still managed to drive to the Zen Center of Denver for the 6 a.m. silent meditation. Doing zazen, I could still feel the thump of the beat from the Pepsi Center. The tour, now headed for the West Coast, is named Anger Management 3, and it seems to be working–so far today I’m feeling more damn mellow than normal.