Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, The Heist Tour
By simply looking at the crowd gathered inside the Verizon Theater in Grand Prairie, TX on November 30, 2013, one wouldn’t know exactly what artist they were about to see. From rabid teenage fangirls (and fanboys), to fratty bassheads, to families with young children, to hipsters adorned in Goodwill threads, and even to couples in their 40’s, rap sensation Macklemore and his DJ partner Ryan Lewis, seem to appeal to all walks of life. The duo’s massive success and wide appeal is a combination of their astoundingly catchy beats, unique choice of collaborators, and politically and culturally contingent messages that are both powerfully meaningful and relatable. The Seattle rapper’s Saturday night show was nothing short of an exemplification of the very best the Macklemore team has to offer.
With two big screens playing bits from music videos, pyrotechnics blasting, “Macklerettes” dancing, and a stage decked out with a brass band and a string duet, a memorable night was in the making, kicking things off with “Ten Thousand Hours.” Largely based on Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, “Ten Thousand Hours” discusses the amount of dedication, practice, and time in the studio that Macklemore and Ryan Lewis took to produce The Heist. The message is simple and effective; do what you love and practice to be successful, as Macklemore and Ryan Lewis take pride in their craftsmanship that went into writing their breakthrough album. The song was the perfect intro to hype the crowd and welcome them to The Heist.
Shortly after touting Dallas’ achievements in Western-wear and exclaiming his love of “cowboy boots, a good horse ride, and a nice fringe jacket,” Macklemore surveyed the audience to admire the fans’ getups. Among his favorites was a group sporting “Same Love” shirts, a kid in a Miami Dolphins cap, and a man who might possibly have been naked in the balcony. However, the showstopper was ultimately a woman dressed in a full-length fur coat, which Macklemore requested to be tossed up to him, garnering huge screams as the infamous opening hook and trumpet score to “Thrift Shop” resounded. All hell seem to break loose as the hit played, with Macklemore parading the stage in his borrowed fur ensemble, looking as though he popped right out of the music video itself. “Thrift Shop,” followed by “Life In Cinema” and “Can’t Hold Us,” brought the entire crowd to their feet and left almost everyone singing along.
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis make it clear that they can produce both stellar pop-infused rap tracks with catchy hooks and serious anthems intended for evoking social change and breaking down cultural paradigms. Macklemore is just as good a rapper as he is an orator, delivering heartfelt speeches about tolerance, equality, and understanding the consequences of addiction and substance abuse. Succeeding his epic speech was an acoustic version of “Otherside” followed by “Starting Over” with orchestral backing, adding a refreshing poignancy to his anti-drug message about marijuana, alcohol, and other substances being blockades to creativity. “Same Love” with Mary Lambert ended with a beautiful trombone solo and shouts of “Macklemore for president!” from the back rows.
In honor of Dallas being the final Texas stop along The Heist tour, Macklemore along with the other musicians on stage did a free style jam, paying homage to the host city and receiving a resounding cheer at the end. For “White Walls” the intro to the music video played as the lights dimmed over the stage, coming back on as Macklemore emerged wearing the signature matador outfit from the video. While the rapper realizes that it may not be trendy to drive a Cadillac, especially in Seattle where there’s “hella Honda Civics,” it’s got an old-school classic feel that even song beats seems to espouse. A giant Nike logo appeared on the screen and a clothes wire draped with basketball shoes descended from overhead, as “Wing$” bashed popular beliefs over consumerism, attachment to brand names, identity through logos, and the happiness typically associated with retail power. Afterwards the twosome managed to lighten the mood, as Macklemore reappeared as his sex-crazed, dance-party addicted alter ego, Raven Bowie, for “And We Danced,” which resulted in some of the greatest “white people dancing” the world has possibly ever witnessed.
As hugely successful as Ben Haggerty and Ryan Lewis have become, they remain impressively humble, taking time at the end of the night to thank every component of their show, from the “Macklerette” dancers to the orchestra conductors. “Some people play their instruments, some people love their instruments, and some people make love to their instruments, and every night on the back of the bus he strips butt naked and goes to town,” Macklemore jokes as he thanks his amazing trumpeter, Owuor Arunga, whose performances transformed the show from an ordinary rap concert to something truly unique. Following the rapper’s session of humility, he gave an encore of “Irish Celebration,” dousing the stage in orange and green lights, waving the Irish flag around in a glowing display, and allowing everyone to be one of Macklemore’s beloved “freckle-faced hustlers” for the night.
Closing out the spectacle with a second encore of “Can’t Hold Us,” Macklemore and Ryan Lewis showed Dallas exactly why they have earned the right to be called superstars. With humbling acknowledgement of their modest beginnings and meticulous attention to the artistry involved, the powerhouse team has created a distinct style of rap that at times sounds more like poetry and focuses on issues other artists shy away from, making them attractive to a whole new breed of hip-hop listeners. Whether you’ve been listening to the songs for two years or two days, there’s a place for you at their show, and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are thankful for each and every fan allowing them to pursue their dream.
I can’t admit to being a huge connoisseur of rap music, but every once in a while an artist comes along that defies the standard preconceptions of the genre. I’m delighted to say that Macklemore and Ryan Lewis have been added to that select list of game-changers. To sum up the concert in one lyric: “we danced, and we cried, and we laughed, and had a really, really, really good time!”