“Welcome to the finale.”
When Macklemore spoke those words early in his set with Ryan Lewis last night at Seattle’s KeyArena, he wasn’t just talking about the final night of a tour, he was speaking about the finality of a whirlwind 2013. In a year’s time, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis have gone from relatively underground local hip-hop heroes to arena-filling superstars boasting multiple Number One hits and seven Grammy nominations. And it was fitting that everything came to a conclusion in Seattle over the course of three straight sold-out nights at KeyArena (a feat no other Seattle act had ever achieved), because there is something truly special about the way this city has clung on to Macklemore.
After kicking off the show with an energetic performance of “Ten Thousand Hours,” Macklemore stood still, looking out on the crowd as it erupted with nearly a minute straight of uninterrupted screams and applause. The adulation had been a long time coming: despite touring relentlessly all year, these three concerts were Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ first official shows in their hometown since October 2012.
Macklemore’s defining characteristic – effervescent charisma – was on full display all night. He could command a room back when he was playing clubs and his skill has only grown along with the sizes of the venues he has expanded into. But Macklemore doesn’t draw in an audience in the same way his arena-rapping peers do. He doesn’t have Jay Z‘s alluring sense of effortless swag, Kanye West‘s commanding eccentric genius bravado or Eminem‘s grab-you-by-the-collar volatile energy. What Macklemore has is sweat. What makes him a compelling live performer is the way he seems all-in at every moment; whether he’s launching himself into the crowd to whip it into a frenzy or emoting personal lines like the ones on his addiction ode “Otherside” which he delivered a cappella. It’s almost a Springsteenian quality. Like Bruce Springsteen, each performance is work, and he’s not about to half-ass the job. Though sometimes his between-songs banter can drag on, it never feels insincere. As he stated bluntly a few songs in, “I’m going to give this every single ounce of my energy.”
A rotating cast of nine live musicians (including cello, violin and brass) enhanced the party atmosphere of the night. Ryan Lewis adeptly played both the role of DJ and hype man, often grabbing a mic, escaping from behind his laptops perched high on the stage, and running down to the front of the stage to jack up the crowd. The production also provided every arena-show staple: pyrotechnics, massive video boards, huge balloons, costume changes and confetti. Lots of confetti.
Yet celebratory vibe of the show wasn’t predicated on Macklemore and Ryan Lewis becoming stars; it was a communal rejoicing that everyone else had figured out what Seattle already knew. When Macklemore says, “I got my city right behind me, if I fall, they got me,” on “Can’t Hold Us,” he means it. The Heist didn’t make Macklemore and Ryan Lewis huge in the Northwest; they could have filled KeyArena before “Thrift Shop” ever hit national pop radio. But the way Seattle has rallied around Macklemore is almost surreal, though there’s a clear reason why Seattleites love him so – he reps his city hard. It’s not merely his lyrics (in songs like “The Town,” “Cowboy Boots” and “My Oh My”) or his propensity to perform in Supersonics jerseys, it’s also the Seattle performers he and Ryan Lewis bring into the fold. The guest vocalists that provide the choruses on The Heist were on hand to sing live. Singer songwriter Mary Lambert belted out an emotional rendition of the gay-rights anthem “Same Love,” Hollis provided her electro-pop vocal to “White Wall,” and Wanz and Ray Dalton added smooth, funky touches to “Thrift Shop” and “Can’t Hold Us.”
The local love never felt stronger than in the encore. After wild versions of party anthems “And We Danced” and “Irish Celebration,” Macklemore spent 20 minutes thanking everyone involved with their tour – and hardly a soul left the venue. After he finished the thank-yous, he called all friends and family to the stage for the second complete rendition of “Can’t Hold Us,” and the crowd celebrated one last time.
“Ten Thousand Hours”
“Life Is Cinema”
“My Oh My”
“Otherside” (a cappella)
“Can’t Hold Us”
“And We Danced”
“Can’t Hold Us”