The last time I was at Wembley it was to see Bob Dylan; this time Eminem. Dylan, the old cynic, likes to play tricks with his fans by singing the words of his back catalogue to new tunes, so that you spend most of the time wondering what the hell it is you’re listening to. The distortion caused by the volume being turned up to the maximum doesn’t help.
Eminem didn’t play games with his fans, but faithfully reproduced his hits to rapturous acclaim, even though his sound system was as atrocious as Dylan’s. The fans have a strange dance which involves extending their right arm and jabbing their fingers so that at times the stadium resembled a Nuremberg rally with Tourette’s.
Eminem, like Dylan, is a poet who constructs long narrative songs with a message. And also like Dylan he revels in challenging authority. The most popular T-shirts at Wembley carried the slogan “I don’t give a fuck”. As the F-word has lost all power to shock, the message probably carried less impact than Cary Grant saying, two generation ago, “Frankly, my dear I don’t give a damn”, but the fans don’t seem to be aware of that. Even though the power to shock is waning, I’m all for kicking against the pricks, especially when it’s a young person doing the kicking, even my own offspring. So I was proud of my two youngest daughters, who arrived at the stadium five hours early, to get the best position just in front of the VIP barrier. Eminem to them, or at least to my youngest, is just as important as Dylan was to me at their age.