After a little more than an hour of a hard-as-nails set that had the bikini-clad rumps shaking at Bonnaroo, Eminem thanked the crowd and left the stage.
Nearly 80,000 fans chanted “Shady! Shady! Shady!” in a thunderous roar for five minutes until hip hop’s angry king returned to the stage for a triumphant encore of “Lose Yourself,” capping the day rap took over Bonnaroo.
Saturday kicked off with Big Boi and Lil Wayne laying down early morning sets — inexplicably overlapping — shortly after Arcade Fire’s Friday night finale, and the takeover continued with Wiz Khalifa on the big stage during a hot afternoon set before Eminem destroyed his Bonnaroo debut.
These weren’t the first rappers at the four-day festival down on the farm in Tennessee. The event is known more for its granola-flavored ethos than its urban cool, but Jay-Z turned in one of the most memorable sets in the festival’s 10-year history in 2010 and expectations were high for Saturday’s takeover — the most concentrated collection of star MCs at Bonnaroo.
Big Boi mixed in his own songs with Outkast favorites. Lil Wayne played it naughty with the crowd and debuted tracks from his forthcoming album “Tha Carter IV,” rattling the port-a-potties with a thunderous bass well into the morning.
And Khalifa kept the crowd sky high by preaching the gospel of weed to a willing choir that included a man who wore a “Marijuana Cures Racism” T-shirt, dancers with flowers in their hair and joints in their hands, and girls in bikinis crowd surfing.
The day was full of odd juxtapositions. Khalifa dropped his hit “Black&Yellow” while just afew hundred yards away Mumford&Sons tore through a set of fiery folk rock as fans watched over a nearby fence and from atop ATMs. The sold-out crowd appeared to be evenly split among the two rising stars of their genres.
Later in the evening, a reunited Buffalo Springfield set up Eminem’s show with a fiery rendition of Neil Young’s “Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World.” Fans rushed into the festival’s largest compound as Young’s echoing guitar died away, entering another world.
Eminem opened with “Won’t Back Down” and “3 a.m.” and never let up, featuring a mix of hits and new songs from his 2010 return to the top, “Recovery.”
“It’s been a minute since I been to the South,” he shouted. “Did y’all miss us?”
Eminem was in top form, fast and angry as he stalked the stage in long camouflage shorts and a black t-shirt. He thanked his fans for standing by him before launching into “Not Afraid.”
Bonnaroo’s crowd may be a hippie enclave, but you wouldn’t have known it Saturday night as most fans rapped right along with Eminem, brightened the sky with lighters to the Slim Shady and Royce Da 5’9’’‘s “Lighters” and played along to a naughty call-and-response before “Love the Way You Lie.”
After the show the debate shifted from whether hip hop belongs at Bonnaroo to Shady 2011 or Hova 2010?