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A blog for Seattle music lovers of all stripes, from hip-hop and indie rock to jazz and world music.

December 11, 2013 at 2:22 AM

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis take a triumphal homecoming turn at KeyArena

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis play the first of three sold-out shows at KeyArena in Seattle on Tuesday. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis play the first of three sold-out shows at KeyArena in Seattle on Tuesday. (Bettina Hansen / The Seattle Times)

If you were looking to understand the unifying force of Seattle’s teen idol rapper Macklemore in one scene, this was it: a 40-something mom drinking white wine, dancing hard while “chaperoning” three elementary school-aged girls wearing T-shirts with “Same Love” printed on the front.

Was the concert for the mom, or the kids? Tuesday night at KeyArena — the first night of a three-night, sold-out stand — the answer was both.

In a year that saw Macklemore and his DJ/producer/partner/ Ryan Lewis reaching stratospheric heights — scoring three number-one singles, certifying their debut album, “The Heist,” platinum and being nominated for seven Grammys just last week — this was the capstone.

And Macklemore seemed to feel it.

“We’re hoooooome,” he yelled, as he took the stage.

But it wasn’t all reveling and triumphalism.

“This is the most important song I’ve written,” he said before performing “Same Love,” his gay-marriage anthem, nominated for a Song of the Year Grammy.

America is currently making strides toward equality, he said, “but we still have a long, long, long way to go.”

For all the pyrotechnics and streamers and confetti of the evening — and there were a lot — the earnestness and intimacy were more powerful. The heaviest time came with singer Mary Lambert belting the “Same Love” hook. “I can’t change, even if I wanted to…” In that moment, the room felt intimate.

Throughout the 90-minute concert, Macklemore bantered steadily, spinning weird yarns about swimming naked at Madison Beach and having his clothes stolen (which led into his smash hit “Thrift Shop”) and eating hot dogs with Mariah Carey. The stories were fanciful, likely not true, and definitely unrehearsed. But as he told them the arena was silent, as if the tales, regardless of their veracity, were a kind of hometown gospel. It seemed like he was playing with his worshipful fans, a bit, perhaps chiding them for being gullible.

Other musical highlights included “White Walls,” with its zippy, slo-mo hook sung by local singer Hollis, and a freestyle jam during which Macklemore beatboxed into the microphone and looped his own voice to create a beat to improvise raps over. For that he was joined by one of the show’s openers, Talib Kweli.

He said freestyling took him back to the pre-Smartphone era, before you worried about being filmed rapping, and potentially embarrassing rhymes immortalized on YouTube. Now, he said, he didn’t care. He just wanted that old feeling back.

So, he improvised lines about being too broke to afford IHOP (true, once), and ended by rhyming “zone,” “poem,” and “home”  — not brilliant, but sweet. The situation harkened back to Macklemore’s genesis in Seattle rap, freestyling at Westlake Center.

It was a good reminder that while the rest of the world might have learned about Macklemore in 2013, in Seattle, it’s a deeper story.

Andrew Matson: matsononmusic@gmail.com or @andrewmatson

Comments | More in R & B/Hip-hop | Topics: Hollis, KeyAreana, Macklemore


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