Long time friend and collaborator, Xperience (XP), gets the show under way in true emcee fashion, brandishing phenomenal production, polished stage presence and the crowd control of a tour headliner. It was just a year ago that Xperience opened up for Macklemore with Champagne Champagne at San Diego’s intimate, all ages venue, The Epicentre. He was a solid act then, but since has gone from a good hip hop act to a well-rounded entertainer who commands the attention, energy and respect of all in attendance. The set that XP and his DJ put together was perfect for the tour and the performance was seamless. The production for the first track was RI DIC U LOUS! and definitely pulled the onlookers in. XP then took us on a buffet style journey through some of his catalogue, showing off lyrically, vocally (yeah, he sings well too), and he showed that he can touch on just about any topic while maintaining the integrity of real hip hop. If openers are something like appetizers, preparing the audience for the main course, then XP did his damn job – he undoubtedly made new fans and left all hungry for what was to come.
New Orleans up and comer (don’t get it confused, he has been doing his thing for quite a while now), Dee-1, was second in the line-up for the night, carrying the weight of being the artist to finish preparing the stage and the audience for the headliner. Dee-1 did a great job of such and showed a great level of composure, crowd control and variety – especially for the tour youngster, which shouldn’t be a surprise since he used to be a middle school math teacher – if you have good classroom management, chances are you can manage a group of people who ALL want to be in attendance. Dee-1 seems to have a deep sense of purpose, similar to Macklemore, and he shared that it was a mutual respect for one another’s mission/vision that landed Dee-1 the spot on the tour. The Louisiana accent is thick and Dee’s personality follows suit; he is confident yet humble, honest yet inviting, making him a tough act not to like. The highlights of Dee-1’s set were his calling up an audience member to freestyle a verse in his I’m the Man in My City and his closing track which seemed to fully embody his talent, and purpose for using such, and the last track was the perfect segue into Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.
SAC had the privilege of catching M&RL’s set in San Diego and the show, in its entirety, in Santa Ana, CA. Without being negative, but while being honest, Macklemore’s set in San Diego fell short of his show the previous year at The Epicentre; he just seemed “off” (which he even commented about during the Santa Ana show) which made the set feel disjointed and lackluster compared to a year ago. One who had not seen him before might have walked away feeling that the show was excellent, and it was, but it just wan’t Mack’s “all”. Not sure what factors played into such, but the following night in Santa Ana he completely redeemed himself – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and each of their bandmates/features were absolutely electric on Friday night, October 26th.
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The band (cellist, fiddler, trumpeter) calmly get into postion – the crowd is already at what seem to be peak levels, then Ryan Lewis jumps up behind his co-pilot’s station and triggers the ambient build up that will become 10.000 hours – they cheer even more, and then, in a Memebers Only-esque jacket with a dead rodent around his neck, Macklemore struts up onto stage, turns his back to the audience (cue the spot light and then seconds later drop the beat) – the audience belts out with its remaining decibles of praise and with hip hop’s universal symbol of adoration/support (one hand/fist moving in rhythm with the kick and the snare) every soul in the place shows his/her loyalty to and desire for the working man’s poetry and emotive production from Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.
The movement from track to track and emotion to emotion was seamless from 10,000 Hours to Irish Celebration. The energy of everyone on the stage was infectious and that energy was passed from performers to audience members, back to performers and so on, in a cycle of mutual appreciation – Macklemore’s appreciation and delight in the attention (though not in what seems an egotistical way) is tangible during any of his many “soaking it in” moments wherein he stands with eyes closed, an unmistakably content smile and a gentle nod to the rhythm of his fans’ praise. That praise is much deserved as Mack and co. champion the cause of many an underdog and tell tales of the beauty that there is to be discovered in life’s daily up’s and down’s.
As the up’s and down’s in life often seem to have a rhythm, the set list mirrors this rhythm as Macklemore brings the crowd up and down and back up again on a musical and emotional roller coaster. He is not alone in this endeavor. The cello, fiddle and trumpet each play a role in both the up’s and the down’s and add a touch that a DJ by him/herself simply cannot do. Also, Macklemore has brought an entire team of features with him on the tour bus – Mary Lambert provides onlookers with goosebumps as she more than sings the chorus for Same Love and ironically brings tears to listeners’ eyes as the words “not cryin’ on Sundays” dance off of her lips at the end of the song, baritone Wanz reminds us that we can “pop some tags” even if we only have “20 dollars in [our] pocket[s] on Thrift Shop, Evan Roman gives us a treat on A Wake with her silky, Lykke Li-like vocals (this was a special moment because it was the first time they had ever performed the track live) and then there is Ray Dalton, a dapper young man with a voice like an angel, who is responsible for some of the most powerful build-ups in Can’t Hold Us, My Oh My, Wings and more – fun fact, Dalton, in a surge of reciprocated energy, came out at the end of the concert to take a bow and threw his suspenders to eager fans. While Ben Haggerty (Macklemore’s given name) possesses an uncanny measure of both charisma and passion, the concert could not be as powerful without his entire team, from band, to features, to openers and on to sound, stage and lighting engineers – this concert was one which allows attendees to transcend their lives for an evening to dwell in music, only to return to the grind with a heightened sense of purpose and resolve.
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Thank God for the unique qualities and characteristics He has designed music to have and for those who He has gifted and chosen to use as instruments of His beauty and grace, wether consciously or unknowingly. It would be a shame for one to have the opportunity to experience The Heist World Tour and miss that opportunity, so please head over to Macklomore.com and find out when and where the tour stops near you and get a ticket NOW, especially since both the San Diego and Santa Ana shows were sold out, as are many others already. This is music at its best, this is hip hop, this is beautiful.
Peace and Love,
*Look for Ben and the crew on Ellen this week, performing Same Love
*Be sure to click on the above hyperlinks to find more about each of the artists mentioned