According to Billboard magazine, Eminem seems to be already benefiting from his new found sobriety. And his hometown fans are the first to feel the positive affects.
During a free show in Detroit last week to promote his newly released Relapse album, Mr. Mathers had this to say about his recent recovery stint as he plans to get more out of his live performances.
“How many motherfuckers are gonna get fucked up tonight?,” he queried. “Get fucked up for me, ’cause, goddamn it, I can’t anymore.” He then added that, “This might actually be one of the best shows I’ve ever done, ’cause when I get offstage I’m actually gonna remember it.”
Now, this is one of the best quotes about the live music experience I’ve heard in a long time. And who better to say it than Eminem. One of pop music’s most articulate and entertaining documentors of the struggles that come with having an addiction to drugs and alcohol. Though in the past, he’s leaned more on the glorifying side, Relapse finds him telling more of the how’s and why’s as he struggles to understand his addictions. Relapse fails in it’s attempt to tell a completely fresh or unique story of Eminem’s struggle but it was the album’s two best songs “3am” and “My Mom” that sent me down a trail wondering about the impact of drug and alcohol addiction on the live music experience.
What’s Exactly Behind The Curtain?
I’m all for artists taking hold of their lives and their art in positive ways, and I’ve had to cringe my way through plenty of awkward live shows, such as seeing Amy Winehouse perform under the influence at Lollapalooza 2007.
But sometimes the addiction is not so obvious.
Sometimes an artist can do a great job of hiding it.
But then, if that’s the case, I start to wonder if the abuse they’re hiding is really helping their performance. And if their “hiding” it well, would I be able to tell the difference between a performance not “under the influence” verses one that is? Would a show minus the drugs and alcohol make their anxieties and fears come racing to the surface?
While I’m at it, I’ll crack Pandora’s box wide open by asking whether we would enjoy an “under-the-influence” show more than a “clean” or “sober” show. And would the music be better or worse? And would we be able to even tell the difference?
I’ve also wondered many times if artists really need to use or abuse drugs and alcohol to put on a great show?
I decided to rattle off all those questions because all to often the abuse of alcohol and drugs are looked at as necessary evils to loosen up before a show, allowing artists to “relax and get in their creative zone.” This may be true to a certain extent. But there have been many cases throughout rock n roll history that make this so-called practice of necessary and regular abuse seem more like a myth than truth.
Eminem’s quote was amazing to read because I had a hard time thinking back to when I heard an artist speak so boldly and honestly against the myth to “need drugs and alcohol to relax and be creative”. Now, we all know Mr. Mathers is known to joke around, but I think his dead serious when he said it. And I’m glad he was, even though his return to music with Relapse left me a bit disappointed, doubtful and wondering if he’s really back at all.
In any case, for now, I’m holding on to Eminem’s live quote because it provided far more insight than Relapse has at this point.
In short, the truth is that drugs and alcohol are, and will always be, a part of music making. I don’t see that changing any time soon.
And just like the myriad genres of music, each artist is unique in their ability to handle the substance.
To a point, that is.
Then what usually happens is that their use becomes abuse, and their music begins to eventually suffer. And the unravelling begins.
That said, I don’t believe that the use of drugs to get creative is beneficial for anyone for several reasons. One reason is that I’ve seen it destroy families and friends and ruin musical abilities that could’ve changed the world. But I also don’t judge any artist if that’s what they choose to do. And if Eminem is genuine in his quest to live a clean and sober life then I fully support and salute him.
Musician or not, the ability to live a sober life and actively battle and recover from your addictions is to have the ultimate power to change your life, make great music, and put on a great show that you can remember and cherish long after the performance is over.
So let’s think about that for a moment.
Think back to the last few concerts you’ve been to and tell me if you’ve ever wondered if the performance quality was influenced by the artist’s use or abuse of drugs and alcohol. Was the performance better or worse?
Of course, there’s the other side to this discussion: the fan’s use of drugs and alcohol during a show, and whether or not drugs and alcohol can make an average show great or a bad show good.
But we’ll talk about that in a future post.
Here are a few links to where you can get more information on drug and alcohol abuse.