If you couldn’t tell, I’m not typically one for pop-superstars. I tend to keep my taste in music underground and crave going to shows where there are only a handful of people. I love the intimacy of it all. I love getting to know the bands that I listen to on a daily basis. It adds a dimension to the music that I require to live and that many people don’t know exists. That being said, there was no stopping me from going to see Macklemore. Love him or hate him, there’s no denying that he took the radio waves by storm and stole the hearts of nearly everyone who has ever heard one of his songs– myself included.
The show was kicked off by a quick set from Xperience and Travis Thompson. Both rappers seemed to be fairly unknown by the crowd but as soon as they both explained how much they had done with Macklemore- whether it be guest vocals or producing- the crowd welcomed them with open arms. Xperience and Travis both had a very distinct rap style but still stayed in the vein of that poppy rap that Macklemore has become the poster boy for. Their [mostly] family-friendly lyrics were the perfect start to this all ages show that had brought people out from nearly every generation. Whether you were one of the young kids standing next to a parent off to the side of the crowd or one of the older people who had snagged a seat up in the balcony, the energetic live performances from both Xperience and Travis had you prepped and ready for what was to come.
Born Benjamin Haggerty, Macklemore is the guy behind quirky hit songs such as “Thrift Store” but also the heart behind touching songs like “One Love”. His versatility has always keep him relevant in my mind. He uses his stardom to deliver messages about issues he feels need to be addressed but doesn’t overstep into issues that he doesn’t feel a passion for. When he sings about LGBTQ rights in “One Love”– you feel his passion and determination to make a difference. It’s that passion and the jaw-dropping work ethic that has Macklemore at the top of my list of inspirational humans. I will never forget the first time I saw him at a small club in Minneapolis. He was a mess, a drunk, and I would have put money on it that he wasn’t going anywhere. The fact that he proved me wrong means everything to me and it shows that no matter how far down you have fallen, you can still pick yourself up and shoot straight up to the top.
Macklemore’s set at the sold out Palace Theatre on Thursday night focused on his newest album “Gemini”. Over half of the nearly twenty song set was from the album which was to be expected but left me a little bit disappointed. The last tour I saw Macklemore perform was in support of his previous album “This Unruly Mess I’ve Made” which was created in collaboration with producer Ryan Lewis. Since that was in support of a project made by the two men, I figured there was no chance I would hear some of Macklemore’s older tracks dating back to his 2005 album “The Language of my World.” I thought that since this current tour was billed as just Macklemore- not Macklemore & Ryan Lewis- I would have a chance to hear those old songs that had me falling head over heels for this Seattle based rapper. Unfortunately, I was wrong but I did get to hear some old favorites from the iconic “This Unruly Mess I’ve Made” album that catapulted Macklemore into the spotlight.
From the first note of the opening song “Ain’t Gonna Die Tonight” (Ft. Eric Nally– more on him later) until the final note of “Glorious” rang out, Macklemore’s performance was high energy and tons of fun. The connection he had with the shrieking fans is something I will never forget. There were very few people in the crowd who didn’t have their eyes glued to the stage and the words streaming out of their mouths. When Macklemore first took the stage, the screams were deafening and easily masked the sound of anything coming through the speakers. I was floored. I mean, I’ve been to big shows before and have been stranded among screeching fans before but this was different. It was deafening, shocking, and absolutely what I expected.
Eric Nally is the voice behind the high pitched vocals in “Ain’t Gonna Die Tonight” and “Downtown”. I was almost just as excited to see him on stage as I was to see Macklemore. Eric was in an old band called Foxy Shazam. They were one of the first bands I ever saw on stage and I remember watching Eric eating cigarettes on stage thinking, yeah, this is the life I want. I want to watch crazy shit like this every single night of my life. So maybe his cigarette eating days are over but there was a sense of comfort that came over me when I saw Eric on stage. That iconic voice was a talent that I was sad to see go when Foxy Shazam came to an end. The fact that Macklemore picked him up was heart warming. There I was watching this world-renowned rapper perform with this cigarette eating stickman (he’s beyond skinny) that I remember hanging out in the House of Bricks parking lot back when I was in my early teens. I couldn’t help but tear up a little bit as I watched the two men dance around the stage. A hell of a lot has changed in my life but that idea I had back then of making concerts a daily part of my life has finally come true.
Macklemore’s high energy set was complete with confetti and multiple special guests. For his new song “Over It” he brought out up and coming songstress Donna Missal. He explained to the crowd that she had flown in from California just for this show, just for this song and it was actually the first time they had ever performed it live together. The chemistry between the two of them was magical and the way their voices meshed was goose bump inducing. Honestly, the connection he had with Travis Thompson (who lends a helping hand in the new song “Corner Store”) was just as magical. Travis had opened up the show so the crowd was already familiar with him, but something changed when he joined Macklemore on stage. Travis’ smile became more infectious and his jumping became higher than it was during his opening set. It’s clear that Macklemore has an effect on people. Whether you’re just listening to him in the car, seeing him live in concert, or joining him on stage. Something about him just makes you feel good. If you take away the fame and fortune that he has gained, you are left with a truly down to earth guy just trying to make it through life without going insane.
There were multiple touching moments throughout his all-too-short set. When he started up “Good Old Days” you could feel the crowd get anxious for the Minnesota shout-out. “In a small club in Minnesota And the snow outside of 1st Ave I just wanted my name in a star Now look at where we at Still growing up, still growing up”. The crowd went insane to the point where you couldn’t hear Macklemore saying those lyrics, only the audience. The crowd was dead silent as he did an a capella version of “Otherside” leaving the crowd with a haunting feeling as the all too real lyrics about addiction were left hanging in the air. There are too many moments that gave me goose bumps to list. There’s something genuine about Macklemore that seems to be lost on many other musicians on the same level of fame. No matter how big he gets, every time he comes to Minnesota it’s like getting a visit from an old friend and I truly hope that never changes.
I could go on and on about last night’s show (clearly) but, if you weren’t there, if you’re not a fan of Macklemore, it wouldn’t matter. I don’t care what kind of music you listen to or who you look up to. Stay true to yourself and be inspired by whoever you want to be inspired by. Macklemore- you’re a huge inspiration to me and I thank you for that.