Do you remember, as I do, the time when Eminem was young, ridiculously talented and reigning supreme in the genre of his choosing, with the world his for the taking?
I was reminded of those days - just over a decade ago - after seeing Laura Marling's superb performance in the Futures Tent earlier on the Saturday night at T in the Park. (Though I'm pretty sure that the young folk songstress is far less likely to face charges of homophobia and misogyny.)
Unfortunately I have to cut seeing her set short to go see Marshall Mathers, who then of course turns out to be fashionably late. And then becomes irritatingly late. (Oh, and finally unbearably late.) Judging by the fizzing screens perhaps the video display is at fault, but the sizeable delay does little to quell any fears that this is an artist past his prime, someone not up to the task of a T in the Park headlining set. Goodness, there doesn't even seem to be any music blaring over the speakers to quell the audience's impatience. Hmm, those rumours about his cancellation don't seem quite as far-fetched now...
Thirty-five minutes later many festival-goers have wandered off through frustration to go see The Prodigy or Mumford & Sons instead, when Eminem finally takes to the stage, emerging out of a trap door to a rabble-rousing hip hop beat. But it becomes quickly clear that all's not quite right.
Strangely enough his accompanying MC's vocals are higher in the mix for Kill You than Slim Shady is, the multi-tracked tone of his lines sounding pre-recorded and lifeless by comparison. Might he actually be miming? Well, surely not, given that TV cameras are presumably on hand to record him for TV, but it's still a bit dodgy. Thankfully the energy builds though, as Cleanin' Out My Closet segues into The Way I Am, providing a couple of well known hits for the fans to holler along to.
Then it starts. “Edin-borg, what the f***'s up yo?” the rapper yells, in an error that might have been forgiven - were it not for the fact that he and all his mic’ed up associates keep referring to being in Scotland’s faraway capital city repeatedly throughout the headline set at Balado. The constant mentions draw increasingly abusive comebacks from the proud drunken T in the Park denizens hailing from other locations in our fine country.
After a short time the rest of Eminem's hombres in D12 join him for a prolonged segment - including that morbidly obese one, who's still wearing a shower cap - for a run through some of their hits, including Under the Influence, a snippet of Purple Pills and My Band. Slim Shady of course remains centre stage throughout, though pays tribute to deceased member Proof by claiming that he's the “real leader singer of the band”. It perhaps lasts a bit long, given that people are here for what's been billed as a solo performance.
His side project bandmates eventually depart, and after a plodding Airplanes, some arms are swayed side to side in the air for the unfurling of Stan. It's well received, but good gracious, Dido's recorded backing vocals are louder than Eminem's own apparent live contributions, which seem as though they're drowned out by his own doubled ghost vocals. Whatever's going on, something's not quite right, and there isn't much of a spark to the set. Bored, I take a brief moment to go off and see a song from Mumford & Sons in King Tuts Wah Wah Hut Tent, Awake My Soul containing more fervency in its few minutes than the Main Stage rival’s entire set so far - but still I go back for more from Mr Mathers.
There’s excitement on the stage. “Can I stand here holding my motherf***ing nuts here for a minute?” enquires the man most regularly known as Eminem as he stands idle, forgetting that thousands of those in the audience were stuck in the same sort of position for a good 35 minutes just over an hour ago. As he then indulges in another self-pitying number, you think really, can’t he just cheer up? Mathers seems stuck in an age when nu-metal still had something of a pudgy-fingered grip on American radio, and it was okay to constantly whine on about b****es, negligent moms and self-inflicted personal problems, failing to appreciate the positives of being a talented multi-millionaire both adulated and adored by a huge number of people. Not that people aren't entitled to have their gripes, but come on...
Even before the end of the show - as people get narky for the umpteenth time over yet another Edin-borg reference - when time's gone past what was supposed to be the end of the set, it's obvious that a crowd-pleasing finale and encore might still rescue this soporific disappointment for many. And perhaps it is when he rolls back the years for My Name Is, which has the audience yelling back Slim Shady in the call-and-response vocals. (Hey, even if he can't reciprocate, at least his fans can get the basic facts correct...)
As it turns out that's part of a - yeah, you guessed it - crowd-pleasing megamix that also encompasses other huge singles The Real Slim Shady and Without Me. Thanking everyone for allowing him to be himself, it's time for Not Afraid from his latest album and an initial exit, returning for an atmospheric Lose Yourself from film 8 Mile as the encore, which easily betters anything that's come before it. With most of his famed self-deprecating humour now completely absent apart from a brief mash-up, what we were left with was dreary, self-pitying nonsense, the best saved until it was far too late.
"Edin-borg, did you enjoy yourself tonight?" asks Eminem before leaving the stage the first time. Well, I can't currently answer for a city that lies around 30 miles away from T in the Park, but I'm pretty sure I've experienced cheerier funerals than this. He’s been through Relapse and Recovery recently, perhaps now it’s time for retirement?