MACKLEMORE 06/04/18 – Brixton Academy
That part of a live music gig in the minutes just before the artist comes on stage, are usually the most tense. All my preconceptions dissipate and I really don’t know what to expect. If it’s an artist I know and love, there’s always that chance that they won’t hit the flow that aligns with the energy. In other words, something will just feel off. If it’s an artist I’m not so familiar with or enthusiastic about, there’s a big chance they’ll assign themselves in my mental filling cabinet under the label “time wasted”.
Macklemore sits in a strange crossover of familiarity for me. There are a few songs that I know and thoroughly appreciate; “Can’t Hold Us” became an anthem for me. “Neon Cathedral” swells up an addict’s melancholy within me which few songs seem to match. “White Privilege II” was a rarely spoken narrative that I still appreciate for its nudging ability to remind me that protest without self-awareness can be woundingly ineffective. I see his intention and I feel his authenticity so he’s on my radar, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I’m a fan. Either way, I needed to see his live show because I just knew it would be an entertaining show.
I tend to watch the house lights. You know something’s about to shift some serious energy when those house lights dim down and the crowd starts cheering both in and at total darkness. In those moments, no matter how loud the crowd becomes, everything inside me becomes silent. I can hear echoes in my head. I can feel the blood coursing through my veins. In the moments before an artist takes the stage, I feel a combination of warmth and security. I don’t know if anyone else will get that, or if everyone gets it. But I do know that when the music starts… I feel love.
There’s one feeling I love more than almost any other feeling. There is nothing that compares to the sound and vibe of the Bass that thumps you in the chest. When a song starts and the subwoofer happens to be in just the right spot, the Bass drops and the vibrations rattle through my rib-cage and ripple through both the soles of my feet and the soul of my existence. For me, this is one of the reasons I love live music. One of the reasons I love hip hop. One of the reasons I love and have passion for good sound engineering. The Bass and rhythm are the foundations for a good song; vocalists can be massively over-rated but the Bass just sits patiently and lovingly providing the structure for the love and spirit of great music. This show reminded me of all this. It all came rushing back in that very first bass thump. It may have been my favourite part of the night.
“Ain’t Gonna Die Tonight” was the opening song. It managed to capture a sense of what this show was going to be; a mix of intensity and play. As soon as Macklemore appeared, the crowd went wild and almost deafeningly so. I can’t remember the last time I saw so many white people that happy… like seriously, I really can’t. The song came with support vocals from Eric Nally; a modern day Freddie Mercury who works the crowd into the sing-a-long moments. Along with “Firebreather”, complete with pyros which are always nice to see, and held the same flow and set the same tone for the rest of the evening.
After an ode to his daughter, next came “Marmalade”. I heard someone describe this song as “plinky-plonky” and I think it’s the perfect description for a song that isn’t really my kinda thing. Macklemore’s break out song in 2012 managed to become an award winning sleeper hit; hitting number 1’s in multiple countries and accruing over 1.1 billion views on YouTube. “Thrift Shop” may well be the reason Macklemore stands before us and it’s smart to keep a song like that at the top of the set list. It’s an entertaining and catchy song complete with back-up dancers, but there isn’t really much more to the live performance of it other than the hype it’s still riding on. The essence of the song is a clever antithesis to the chains and whips flashy-rap that exists; it’s just a shame the song couldn’t eradicate that trend entirely.
After an emotional “Same Love” performance introduced by Macklemore’s proclamation to equality, the crowd was now warmed up for the bulk of the “Gemini” solo album. Complete with costume changes, audience member-dance offs and guest vocalist Jess Glynn, this chunk was the play part and was somewhat hit and miss for me, but thankfully the misses weren’t enough to throw off the entire show. I liked seeing that Macklemore was clearly happy on stage doing his thing; sometimes it’s just nice to see someone’s infectious smile and resonant joy. However, with all due respect to his journey and his self-reflective style; I can’t help thinking that his earlier, more political work might’ve been the type of show that spoke to me and provided something more memorable.
Macklemore asked people to put their phones away for a minute and enjoy the next song like we were living in the 90’s. Being a bit of a technophobe myself, I appreciated the sentiment. Some people didn’t respect it but the vast majority stopped watching the world through a screen for a minute and enjoyed “Can’t Hold Us” in all its anthemic glory. He closed with the lead single from his solo project entitled “Glorious”.
This song actually is somewhat glorious and I’m not entirely sure why; it just feels like the type of song I wanna hear on a beautiful day when the sun’s shining, and I’m running to remind myself that I can. The sweetest part of the night might have been seeing the smile and the gratitude on Macklemore’s face; because even if this impressive show had ended up being a shitty show, seeing a person’s visible joy and gratitude is a highly redeeming quality.