Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Leeds Arena – 23/04/16
Back in Seattle a long time ago, a young boy named Ben Haggerty made up a superhero, dreaming of protecting the world for good, saving people, and making the world a better place. His superhero was named ‘Macklemore’. Roughly 22 years later, Ben Haggerty, in a way, is living his superhero dream. He’s flying around the world, leaving positive impressions on millions of people, and he’s tackling the world’s issues in his lyrics as thousands of people listen, watch, and of sing along. Tonight, Macklemore is set to make his mark in Leeds, and we can’t wait to see what he has in store for us!
Macklemore (8) and his partner in crime (and producer) Ryan Lewis, rise from the smoke beneath the stage of Leeds Arena, to face around 6000 screaming fans to the sound of the lengthy set opener ‘Light Tunnels’, the opening track from their recent UK R&B chart topper ‘This Unruly Mess I’ve Made’. It’s an interesting start as he raps through his experience of winning the best Rap album at the Grammy Awards, somewhat controversially beating Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Good Kid’ which Ben Haggerty himself found most surprising.
A little chit-chat with the crowd has everyone laughing as he proposes to tell the Leeds crowd a big secret, and introduce his next song at the same time; “Brad Pitt’s my Cousin!” He gets the arena in the party mood with the entertaining ‘Brad Pitt’s Cousin’, which has everyone jumping along for the first time tonight. It’s one of Macklemore’s trademark songs with its less serious comical lyrics and infectiously catchy tune, which goes down a treat. It’s certainly one of our favorites from the new album, and clearly one of Macklemore’s to play live too.
A surprisingly early appearance of his huge hit ‘Thrift Shop’ receives ecstatic screams, and has everyone singing along at the top of their voices. Backed up with some fantastic visuals, backing dancers and musicians, it really is an incredible performance that leaves everyone singing and laughing along from start to finish. It’s moments like this throughout the night that make this show something special. He has a great confidence on stage and doesn’t take performing in an arena too serious, and sways from music to comedy effortlessly which rubs off on the crowd leaving every single person enjoying themselves to their limits.
However not everything Macklemore raps about is fun and quirky, as he does have a side to him in which he addresses major world issues, police brutality, and cultural appropriation which build up some powerful tracks. ‘White Privilege II’ would undoubtedly be one of them, as it has caused quite an up stir when it was revealed to the world. It’s an extremely structured track addressing race, police brutality, and discussing social movements associated with ‘Black Lives Matter’ – an activist movement against violence towards black people, which fired up after the wrongful shooting of Trayvon Martin. ‘Same Love’ is another, touching upon the subject of sexuality and people’s interpretations on others, and being who you want to be.
As you would expect these songs are somewhat a message rather than a piece of music, and Ben Haggerty feels he can address such issues with great intent when under such a bright spotlight to get people thinking, and of course he does it perfectly.
‘Growing Up (Solane’s Song)’ is about a much more beautiful subject. It’s about love and fatherhood, and is performed by a proud dad who dedicates the performance to his daughter who “took her first steps two days ago”. It’s a moving performance and one of the highlights of the night as not one person in the room wasn’t touched by the striking lyrics and emotion.
After pulling us into the deep end mid set, we close the rest of the night out with some memorably fun moments. ‘Let’s Eat’ picks up the mood with an interesting show from a diner table mid stage. After being served a plate of cookies, Macklemore hands them out to the crowd across the barrier before successfully launching the very last one high into the heavens to a fan at the top of the arena.
‘White Walls’ continues to pick up the pace, before an explosive performance of ‘Can’t Hold Us’ turns the arena into chaos. The whole floor is bouncing, drinks are flying, bodies are crowd surfing, and you can feel the energy rising throughout the room for the most spectacular moment of the night, leaving leeds being labeled the craziest city in Europe by the main man.
An encore of ‘And We Danced’ has us in stiches after a hilarious intro introduces Mecklemore back to the stage, which has him flying around dancing in a wig and shiny cape to hold the “best dance party in the world”. One final encore predictably brings us his latest super hit ‘Downtown’ with some impressive production and dancers leaving the crowd singing deafeningly loud, as confetti falls from the roof of the arena.
A spectacular end to the night which has brought everything to the plate from spectacular visuals and dancers, to chart toppers and tear jerkers. After Macklemore & Ryan Lewis broke into the top of the music charts unsigned, they are well and truly lapping up everything they deserve for all of their hard work, and it’s more than a pleasure to be a part of it all.
Check out our ‘Live in Photos‘ section to see more shots of this show here!
Photography – © Danny Peart Photography