Double denim, shiny suits and fur coats were worn with pride last Wednesday (September 11) in Birmingham. If you think I’m talking about the gay pride festival, you’re wrong! The one and only Ben Haggardy, aka Macklemore, and Ryan Lewis were in town!
Kicking off their The Heist: World Tour just two days prior in London, the duo performed to a sold out crowd in the O2 Academy’s main room. The “Shark Face Gang” turned out in force to support the musical duo as they started their 58-date worldwide tour right here in the UK.
Performing crowd favourites such as ‘Thrift Shop’, ‘Can’t Hold Us’, and the award-winning ‘Same Love’, it’s a wonder to think that they’re not supported by a label! If you didn’t know already, debut LP The Heist was recorded and released completely independently by Macklemore and Lewis themselves.
Opening his set with ‘Ten Thousand Hours’, the booze-driven crowd sang defiantly as one with the chorus: “Ten thousand hours, felt like ten thousand hands/Ten thousand hands, they carry me.”
At the end of the song, Macklemore stood up and looked to the people sitting in the seats and said: “Now I respect you bought a ticket with a seat – but I didn’t come all the way around the world to sit down. Tonight we dance. Tonight we sweat. Tonight we do a little stage diving. So sit down if you want to – but if you wanna, stand up, and let’s go to the ‘Thrift Shop’!”
The hit that launched Macklemore and Ryan Lewis to super-stardom was performed fairly early in the set, but nobody was disappointed! As the trumpet blasted in to action in the tell-tale intro, the energy in the crowd exploded as people everywhere began dancing. Unpredictably, both ‘Thrift Shop’ and ‘Can’t Hold Us‘ were huge crowd pleasers as the audience danced and sang amongst the hundreds of cameras flashing high in the air.
Slowing things down from the crazy-fun atmosphere they followed up with the award-winning ‘Same Love’, a serious song promoting gay-rights that recently won the 2013 MTV VMAs Video With A Message Award. The stereotypically homophobic nature of hip-hop music was evidently not present here tonight, as the entire crowd belted the lyrics in unison. This song attracted the most cameras and the audience became a sea of bright lights throughout. It was great to see such a positive message being projected throughout the night.
One thing clearly noticeable at the show was how diverse the audience were. Most artists gain attention from a specific niche genre of society – but the audience appeared to come equally from a diverse demographic of 18-35+ year olds. They all shared a feeling of acceptance, love and unity which really kept the energy flowing between songs.
During his early years, Macklemore experimented heavily in alcohol and drugs and quickly became addicted – and this influences largely in his music. He has always been publicly open about his struggles with addiction, and after an intervention from his father, he entered rehab in 2008. ‘Otherside’ speaks of how hip-hop glamorises drug use, paying tribute to the late rapper Pimp C who died from substance abuse. Macklemore sang the lyrics to ‘Otherside’ acapella, interjecting to project an anti-drug message. ‘Starting Over‘ was performed straight after, allowing Macklemore to express his emotions during his relapse just days after entering his rehab program.
The Heist reached number 1 on the iTunes charts within hours of release prompting looks from big names worldwide as it was independently released with no label. The video for ‘Thrift Shop’ aired on YouTube and well… the rest is history!
Macklemore finished with a personal favourite, ‘Gold‘, a track that makes fun of celebrity wealth and influence, and how anyone can feel like they’re on top of the world. Older fans rejoiced as the encore played out with their old EP hits, ‘And We Danced’, followed by ‘Irish Celebration’, before one final rendition of ‘Cant Hold Us’.
The pyrotechnics staff were in full swing tonight, as we (the audience) often found ourselves covered in an array of confetti and streamers falling from the sky. It really made the somewhat limited venue of the Birmingham O2 feel like a much larger stadium – whilst keeping the intimacy. It sounds strange, but the atmosphere inside the building was very positive and this reflected in the music.
There is one line in ‘Thrift Shop’s’ chorus that truly reflected how the evening played out: “This is f****** awesome!” Macklemore and Ryan Lewis were amazing to listen to, and an honour to watch them perform live. Not only did they perform great hits, but also offered wonderful messages at the same time – a difficult feat for ‘cool’ hip-hop stars. If you managed to get tickets to see them on their tour, don’t miss it! The ‘price tag’ of the tickets didn’t break the bank at just £20 for standing, and it was more than worth it. What a truly fantastic night, and one that will be remembered for years to come.
5 stars ★★★★★
If you have a couple more minutes to spare, why not check out the past week’s other content?