The hip-hop-pop mash up of Macklemore’s sound is something that can turn many a confused heads. With comical lyrics, over the top music videos and energized performances that hold the overwhelming sense of positivity, it’s not the typical ideal of hip-hop but watching Macklemore and his musical counterpart Ryan Lewis on the Manchester Arena stage; it’s really hard to not like him.
From a birds eye view, the stage is shaped in an M, with two walk ways at either side of the arena to be utilized throughout the show. Macklemore ascends from under the stage in the most Hannah Montana-esque fashion, a flurry of smoke surrounding him. Hanging from the ceiling is the logo from their latest studio release ‘This Unruly Mess I’ve Made’ and is lit synchronically with each song that is played. Another to match each song are the visuals projected through a large back drop, though with Ryan Lewis positioned directly in front of it for the majority of the show he does get a little lost in the chaos behind him.
What’s most notable about the set up for the night is the inclusion of everyone else onstage. From dancers, to rappers, to musicians, Macklemore is joined by so many talented POC (People Of Colour). It could have been easy to assume that, as a white rapper in the hip hop game, Macklemore would bring mostly white artists to back him but despite diving into hip hop culture he understands that it is rooted with the brilliant POC that grace the stage with him and are just as integral to the performance as Macklemore is himself.
What you may not expect from a Macklemore and Ryan Lewis show are the speeches, of which there are plenty. Some serious, some a little more comical to match the likes of Thrift Shop or Let’s Eat, but they never grow tiresome. What Macklemore has is an inane ability to connect with his audience, he’s a rockstar on that stage and people want to listen to him. The first notable speech comes after Wing$, a track about consumerism in America, is topped by the most heart-warming words. Recalling their initial visit to the Manchester and when he first wrote that song, he reflects on how they’ve moved from a 200 cap venue – to which 200 people didn’t show up – to 5,000 people yelling ‘Mom I touched the net!’ It’s a testament to the hard work that both Macklemore and Ryan Lewis have put in to making this work and the moment is sweet for both fans and artist alike.
Same Love is introduced by some words about immigration and how refreshing it seems to Macklemore to come to Europe and see people so accepting of immigrants. “I don’t care who you are, what you look like, the colour of our skin, who you love. I care about your heart.” It’s a strong message to know you’re accepted and there are roots of that in White Privilege II, also. An incredibly strong track both lyrically and in it’s performance, with everything stripped back allowing for no gimmicks just for the real message to be conveyed. Black Lives Matter is something that has made headlines in the past couple of years, as more and more black people are killed mercilessly at the hands of the people meant to protect them, Macklemore has written a track regarding protecting them and the culture they created. It’s about standing up for those people, using this platform to celebrate black culture, as opposed to just ripping it off, and that shows in the inclusion of talented black artists in his show. It also allows one of these artists, a musician, to be highlighted as he comes to the forefront to speak his own message of Black Lives Matter, recalling the names of the innocent who unfairly lost their lives this past year, causing goosebumps to raise.
Let’s Eat see’s Macklemore announcing he wants to move to Manchester, giving three reasons: 1. The accent and how staying for 10-12 years will make him a pro, 2. The women and 3. The Fish & Chips. Let’s Eat is an upbeat feel good track about not caring about your weight, it’s for anyone out there that loves food and doesn’t really care what anyone thinks of him or her when they eat. It’s hilarious to watch as a performance, as Macklemore descends to the pit in front of the stage to pass out cookies. He saves one, of course, at first for himself as he practically drools over the contents of it but then decides to aim it for the seating area. Though he mimicks one guy from the front row who is positive he won’t be able to throw a cookie to a top row of the mid section, Macklemore executes a perfect throw that makes it just a few feet from his original target.
There are two encores for the night, the first see’s Macklemore coming on stage in 80’s glam rock garb following a quick video introduction, which has been catered perfectly to the UK tour. It flows easily into Dance Off which is mostly just a couple of repeated lines and a lot of dancing. It brings two people from the crowd up onto the stage, one of which can really dance. As the music begins, in a surprising turn of events, the first guy to dance flips to the front of the stage where he cartwheels, executes ballet twirls and more. He’s electric and everyone is cheering in euphoria.
The final encore is for the debut release from The Unruly Mess I’ve Made – Downtown. It see’s a lot of the moves from the original video and a shock appearance from Eric Nally. The Foxy Shazam frontman sang the hook of this song in the original video and has joined Macklemore & Co on tour to perform it. His outlandish moves have your eyes trained on him and, as confetti rains down for the final part of the song, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis offer an explosive end to an incredible set. While on album their music can seem a little flat at times, in a live setting they’re unstoppable. Everything is amplified tenfold and anyone who wasn’t there really missed out on an unforgettable show.