Eminem: Live From New York City, recently released on Blu-ray from Eagle Rock Entertainment, features a 78 minute concert by Eminem. The show was taped in 2005, while Eminem was promoting the weakest album of his career, Encore.
The emphasis on material from that album diminishes what is already a rather dreary performance. Most of the big hits in the setlist are severely truncated, with favorites like "Stan" and "Cleaning Out My Closet" shortened to a single verse. And if you aren't a fan of D-12, be prepared for a rough middle patch as the group dominates that portion of the show.
So what is good about the release?
I would have to say the most entertaining aspect is the audience reaction shots. Usually I can't stand excessive cutaways to the fans cheering and singing along. But there's something amusing about watching the young men and women rapping along with their idol. They seem mesmerized and extremely serious about what they're watching. Many of Eminem's best songs are outrageously funny, but for the most part the audience bumps along without cracking a smile.
I would've preferred more unintentionally funny audience reaction to Eminem's dour stage persona. When the various members of D-12 take the stage, they come across more amped up than the star of the show.
What works on an album doesn't always work on stage. Most, if not all, of these songs are better in their recorded form. From the sound of it, Eminem is rapping along to his own prerecorded track. I can understand the teleprompters that are easily visible near the bottom of the stage – he's got a lot of words to remember. But there's not much spontaneity in hearing a guide vocal in the background. Incidentally I did not detect any prerecorded track when D-12, and other guest performers such as Obie Trice and Stat Quo, were rapping.
The massive crowd was obviously pleased with hearing what are basically careful recreations of existing recordings. That's not really my cup of tea when watching live performances. Eminem is a brilliant storyteller and an endlessly interesting creative force. There simply isn't much added to his music by watching him stalk around the stage.
The now-dated (and always ludicrous) "Mosh" is a prime example of the banal staging. Some guy in a Bush mask comes out and walks around on the upper level of some scaffolding. That's it. Nothing else happens visually during the song, except that "Bush" flips off the audience at the end of the song.
On Blu-ray, Eminem: Live From New York City presents a solid 1080i hi-def image. The picture is sharp during the performances segments. There are a few backstage vignettes that interrupt the concert several times. This footage was apparently broadcast on the screens for the audience to see. This footage looks pretty horrible actually, grainy and soft-focus, but each segment only lasts a few minutes.
Besides a standard stereo track, the audio options include Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS HD tracks. The audience reaction is very audible, though never overwhelming, offering a realistic approximation of the show's atmosphere. The vocals are clear and intelligible and the bass end is thumping, so the two key elements of this genre are well represented.