The Up In Smoke Tour is one of those VHS tapes I’ve seen probably fourteen times. Beyond the fact Dre and Em were performing some of the best music they’ve ever made in their lives at a time when everyone in the world was watching, I love that tour tape because whenever I watch it I am in actual physical pain from a desire to have been there, to rap along with everyone else, to see all those chicks propelled to whip out their boobies while whaffs of pot smoke literally hover just above the crowd’s nostril height. Where were all the bouncers? Its like Aftermath bought them out for the night.

If you know the footage I’m talking about and are an Eminem stan — or hip-hop fan generally for that matter — you understand how necessary it is to see this guy in concert. It’s like a rite of passage or some shit. For the first evening of the 2011 Osheaga Festival in Montreal on July 29, Janelle Monae played a great set earlier in the night, whipping around stage with a cape on, scream-skinging and kicking on the floor while shimmy dancing around the stage just as well as she does in her videos.

Janelle’s performance was rad and perhaps the following comparison isn’t fair or warranted, but the eclectic singer couldn’t have done anything to compare to Eminem’s solemn and serious bark screaming into the mic, even if she is a more polished performer. My evaluation may be a matter of taste, but it’s also one of relatively indisputable global weight. He barely mustered a smile the entire night, but managed to make the 30,000 crowd screamers the happiest kiddies in Quebec: his performance, while outstanding, ultimately mattered less than his presence.

Em paid special tribute to recently deceased Nate Dogg in his set, which you can watch (or re-live) in the videos below. He also ran through a string of hits in a banger-type medley, then played through a few tracks from his recent collaboration with Royce Da 5’9, Bad Meets Evil.

This wasn’t ┬ásome outlandish, surprise-oriented performance. Dre didn’t show up in a helicopter, and Snoop didn’t bust through a trap stage to dibble shizzle rizzle ┬áhis way through a verse, but it didn’t matter. Eminem’s all grown up now. Just as he doesn’t need to stand on the shoulders of those who brought him up, he doesn’t need to rely on external tactics to impress his audience: Marshall Mathers, as the solitary force he has become, is impressive enough.

Words: Kara-Lis Coverdale
Photos: Pat Beaudry