Russel Gardin
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Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, the Seattle based hip-hop duo, recently played the Revention Music Center on January the sixteenth to a packed -- and I mean packed -- venue. The main reason I was eager for this show was irony. Irony sells. Most of these shows are sold out because people pay to hear someone rap about ironic things.

Macklemore, Photo: Russel Gardin

Leon casino, I arrived right as doors opened and there was an already impressive crowd in attendance, but these were predominantly families who perhaps do not take their young kids to very many shows. As time passed, the large venue rapidly became smaller. Xperience (XP), the opening DJ, was there to excite the crowd pre-Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. While there was nothing overly special about the opener, he was good at his job. Xperience was featured on some tracks  of Macklemore’s debut record “The Language of My World,” so he played a few samples of those tracks. One of the few notable moments during Xperience’s set was a long freestyle he did; it was energetic, yet bland for a reason I can’t explain. Perhaps as a way to get the crowd more involved, Xperience jumped off the stage and stood on the crowd barricade. This is always a sure-fire way to excite a declining crowd. By the time the set was over, I had finally formed an opinion of Xperience; for someone who is not too into DJ’s as opening acts, I was somewhat entertained. I might’ve had higher hopes for an opener for a production as big as Macklemore, but Xperience did his job, and there were a number of people who genuinely enjoyed the performance. I just was not one of those people.


Now, the time has come; the crowd is rumbling; the duo finally takes the stage. The song was “BomBom,” and the crowd went absolutely wild. Macklemore is just pacing from one side of the stage to the other while the crowd lights up the venue with their selfies and excessively long Snapchat stories. This goes on for “Ten Thousand Hours,” the second song of the set. While they may not be his biggest hits, there were definitely some die-hard fans that uttered every single verse to the entire set. This show was my first time doing the photo pit, so getting to the see the front row backed up my point about the die-hard fans. I saw the first few rows had VIP tickets, so I assume they have been fans through his rise not too long ago, to the decline in relevance, all the way to his recent revival with the track “Downtown.” One can only assume that this indicates “This Unruly Mess I’ve Made” will be just as good as this single, and I believe that once released, the duo will somewhat dominate pop radio again.


As soon as song three began, you heard the infamous “Hey, Macklemore, can we go thrift shopping?” and the crowd lost their minds. I mean, there were people  who screamed the lyrics to “Thrift Shop” at the top of their lungs. One of the things I started to notice at this point was the backing band: the underdogs of the entire show. I say underdogs because majority of the attendees were more than likely unaware that there would have even been a backing band. There was a horn line and a pianist that sounded flawless and a backup dance crew that kept everything “fresh.” I did not hear one slip-up from the backing band the entire night. I imagine you have to have very versatile musical abilities to play with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. You have to be able to alternate between the country twang of “Cowboy Boots” to the funk-heavy “Downtown.”


By the time the song “Arrows” started, I was out of the photo pit and in center back of the stage and was finally able to grasp the intensity of the audience. I would say the majority of the crowd had been jumping up and down up to this point, hopefully that didn’t make those Snapchat videos too blurry. This was another track I was not familiar with but I would say I am now a fan. This was the case for “Wing$,” the next track on their extensive setlist. I remember that this song had such a heavy bass drum to it along with a soothing trumpet line in the background. In this track, Macklemore stopped rapping and a recording of a group of kids harmonizing kicks in. I believe that this added a personal touch of irony that the duo is known for. It’s hard to picture some of the biggest names in modern hip-hop to feature a children’s choir in the background, appealing to the plethora of moms and dads with their young kids. I could only imagine some of the parents wanting their children to cover their ears during the explicit lyrics in some of the songs that evening.


The next track, “Same Love”, a track about equality, started off with a short introduction about previous mayor Annise Parker. Actually, Macklemore was not familiar with the recent election. I say this because he talked about bringing up the mayor on stage with him at FPSF and the crowd has a confused facial expression. Macklemore went on to say “Well, maybe not the new Mayor”. The song began and was backed with the zippo’s and phone lights swaying in the background while the backup vocalists sounded so heavenly that I almost thought that I was at a Spiritualized show. I think this song was a great thing for the duo to record. It is their “we don’t care that we are one of the only few groups to talk about this important issue”. This song evoked a lot of emotion from the crowd, and for good reason.


After a few more songs, it was time for his latest single “Downtown”. This was another moment where I thought the backing band was flawless. The funk-heavy track carries such a substantial amount of energy. Luckily, this song sounded even better live than the studio version. Eric Nally, the guest vocalist, actually appeared live and made the song come alive with his raw, powerful voice that only he can achieve. As I looked to see what Nally was doing on the mega screen, I actually recognized who it was; the vocalist for Foxy Shazam! Foxy Shazam, who performed at Buzzfest a few years back, put on one of the most memorable shows that I have ever seen, so it made perfect sense that the tour would have Nally tag along.


Then, the stage emptied and the lights started to dim. People were sad and thought that show was over, and there was a number of people who actually left the venue, but a comical video about the birth of “King Macklemore” shortly started. Macklemore soon appeared with an eighties Rock Star wig and a purple cape to perform the track “And We Danced”. After this came a shot of confetti and a large Irish flag for the song “Irish Celebration”. Both of these tracks were fun and high energy, even though majority of the crowd wasn’t familiar with lyrics. Up next came “Can’t Hold Us”, the closing track, and EVERYONE enjoyed it. I actually saw more fists jumping than I saw phones, and that is something that is a rare sight at pop concerts.


Overall, this was a fun-filled show that I was very glad I got to go to. So, all of my and attendees friends that said “lol” when we said we were going; you missed out! For anyone who is hesitant about seeing the show next time they’re in town, go. You will not regret it.



  1. BomBom
  2. Ten Thousand Hours
  3. Thrift Shop
  4. Crew Cuts
  5. Arrows
  6. Wing$
  7. Same Love
  8. Growing Up (Sloane’s Song)
  9. Otherside (Acapella)
  10.  Kevin
  11. White Walls
  12. Downtown


  1.  And We Danced
  2.  Irish Celebration 
  3.  Can’t Hold Us