On Friday November 23rd, Seattle emcee Macklemore made his way to the Sound Academy in Toronto to perform in front of a sold out crowd as a part of his Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Heist Tour. For Macklemore, 2012 has been a great year; he released his album The Heist independently to critical and commercial acclaim. During its first week on sale the album hit number one on the iTunes Charts and number two on the Billboard Hot 200 Charts. His videos for the singles “Thrift Shop” and “Same Love” have over 7 million views on YouTube and everyone from Ellen DeGeneres to GQ magazine to Rolling Stone have jumped on the Macklemore bandwagon.
The 2500+ fans who came to the Sound Academy to see Macklemore perform (some who even camped out at the Sound Academy from 9:00am in the morning) couldn’t contain their excitement for the Seattle emcee. From the moment the doors opened fans rushed the stage trying to get as close as possible to their hero. With a capacity crowd filled from the front stage all the way to the back entrance and every corner in between, it would be an understatement to say that Macklemore had his work cut out for him that night. Fans were so eager, they began cheering “Mack-Le-More” during the opening acts. Within just a few minutes after the opening acts left the stage, Macklemore, along with his producer/hype man Ryan Lewis, trumpet player Owour Arunga, and back up dancers, hit the stage and got the party rocking from the first drop of the beat. Jumping right into the catchy “Ten thousand hours,” Macklemore kicked things off with a bang, giving back the same energy that pulsated through the room. The excitement and energy got so loud that, at one point, the audience ended up drowning out the background music to Macklemore’s vocals. Soaking in all the love from the crowd Macklemore went right into fan favorites “Thrift Shop,” “Wings,” and “The Other Side,” causing moshes in the front rows that ultimately lead to a few fans passing out. Things got so crazy that fans began throwing fur coats (Macklemore’s signature choice of clothing) and bras on stage causing Macklemore to laugh and ask the crowd, “How many beavers were killed in order to make this jacket?”
Things seemed to calm down only when he took some time to address the crowd and tell his story about becoming sober and how he did it in Canada. It was at this point when things had settled down that you felt like you were connecting to Macklemore on a personal level. His story of becoming addicted to alcohol and pills made you see him in another light making you respect him even more for his honesty and candor. He also took time to tell his story about his gay uncle and dealing with homophobia in hip hop. Though a subject one wouldn’t normally think would be brought up at a concert, for some reason it felt authentic and from a real place and lead into the single “Same Love” sung by back-up singer Mary Lambert, who sang her ass off and inspired a karaoke type sing along with the the entire audience singing the hook “I can’t change, even if I …” Not feeling awkward or out of place, it seemed to mesh right in with the tone of the show, giving an audience (mostly in their adolescent years) a lesson on equality and gay rights.
Not wanting to come off too preachy, Macklemore shifted the momentum from equal rights and at one point even U.S politics (when he gave Barack Obama a shout out for supporting same sex marriage) to an all out dance party. Leaving the crowd clamouring for more, Macklemore abruptly left the stage, giving the impression that the show was over. Then, out of nowhere, he emerged back on stage as his alter ego, Sir Raven Bowie, with a full on metal rock band blonde wig and sequin cape to perform the fist pumping dance track “And We Danced,” taking the energy of the night to an all time high with everyone from VIP down to the back corners of the venue dancing and fist pumping to the song.
For me, having seen Macklemore perform in Toronto last year I wasn’t too sure what to expect from his show in 2012. Most artists stick to a proven set list and play it pretty safe when performing night after night in different cities. With Macklemore that’s just not the case; with him you know it’s a different show and a unique connection with every city he visits. There’s a feeling after each show that he gave a 110 percent each time. Whether he is stage diving in the crowd or telling personal stories about his past, you feel as though you learned more about the man, rather than a persona, after each show. His shows don’t feel like you went to a typical concert but instead to a cool house party that got a little crazy, in a good way. That’s probably the reason why he’s grown his audience year after year, from performing at the Mod Club one year to selling out the 2500+ capacity at Sound Academy another year. It’s probably also the reason why after each show he gains a new set of fans who root for him to win and become loyal #SharkFaceGang members for life.