Macklemore and Ryan Lewis at 3Arena, Dublin on April 15th 2016
It’s well past 9pm when Macklemore and Ryan Lewis rise up from underneath the stage with Light Tunnels kicking off proceedings, with visuals of the various celebrities he name-checks emblazoning the stage. His band – compromised of a brass section, a string section, and another percussionist accompanying Lewis – dance awkwardly with the song, proving to be very distracting.
Macklemore is every bit the charismatic and enigmatic performer you expect, strong on stage and intensely captivating. Sporting an Irish soccer jersey while his compadre Ryan Lewis wearing a hoodie branded with the word ‘Dublin’ – he continuously brings up his Irish heritage, referring to Ireland as his ‘home’.
For an independent artist, the production value of this show is through the roof – the visuals are dynamic and eye-catching for every track. Macklemore performs Buckshot with the same zeal of a guy who just came first in the Transition Year talent show. Finishing up by producing an easel and drawing a caricature of himself. Macklemore grabs it when he’s finished and begins screams to the crowd, “Who wants it?”.
The rapper spends an almost Glen Hansard level of time setting up his songs with anecdotes. Before Thrift Shop, he regales a recent story of how, on a recent walk around Dublin with his young daughter, he didn’t realise how big St. Patrick’s Cathedral was. Thrift Shop is full of fun costume changes and entrancing dancing. He improvises towards the end, attempting a re-work of the second verse at a much faster pace following a challenge from Lewis.
More often than not, the Macklemore show feels like a rally. Rousing his troops with his catalog of track that carry a common theme, loud and aggressive in the middle, tapering out towards the end, heavily reliant on nostalgia. Having reached deep into fans’ hearts with Same Love, a track celebrating marriage equality, he’s turned his attention to other social issues. Excessive dieting and exercise comes under fire on Let’s Eat, in which he raps across a kitchen table to a band member. That might sound unusual and it’s not even the strangest part, as at the end, the rapper produces a plate of cookies which he gives out to the front row. An attempt to throw one in to the second level surprisingly makes its mark!.
Then, he tackles racism. White Privilege II is delivered sincerely and powerfully. Macklemore’s trumpet player reads the names of the victims of police brutality in America. It’s a sobering, uncomfortable watch – but that’s the point. Suddenly, it’s a slam poetry event. Vocalist Jamila Woods’ face appears on screen, speaking directly to the crowd – the gravity of themes are probably lost on the younger spectators.
Macklemore combats these serious, soapbox moments with some absolutely ludicrous displays. And We Danced sounds like a Eurovision entry from the mid-noughties, and sees him don a blonde 80s wig and sequinned get-up. It’s the most nonsensical part of the night, but undoubtedly one of the most fun.
Finishing with Dance Off, which features British actor Idris Elba, Irish Celebration and finishing with Downtown, which sees them joined by Eric Nally for the chorus, the encore retains a fun intensity never seen in the 3Arena before. Hit after hit, bodies heave and roll at his every word.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis saw Thrift Shop go to number 1 without the support of a major record label, and are now reaping the rewards. It’s a super tight production in places – the band never put a foot wrong, and the visuals and lighting are unique and engaging. The balance between party animal hip-hop mastermind and role model rapper is met – just about. Given the fact this is only night one, and the duo’s efforts have been so huge, it will be interesting to see if they can maintain the momentum when he plays Saturday and Sunday night in the 3Arena.