Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are an unlikely success story. Two white boys from Seattle, making hip-hop music, without an ounce of true swag between the two of them. Macklemore’s lyrics come across as ridiculous (when he’s trying to be funny) and “high school poet” melodramatic when he is trying to be real. Ryan Lewis isn’t even cool enough to drop the vowels from his name. Throw in a few tracks concerning “white people problems” over Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Killers samples and you’ve got yourself a hot mess. And as if that wasn’t enough, Macklemore is trying to crossover into hippie territory — chastising current fashion in favor of piss-stained thrift store styles. It’s easy to hate on these guys, and the cynic in me can’t help but hear “Same Love” as just a little too calculated, but there is another part of me that can’t help but enjoy almost everything they do. On paper, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are a joke — on stage, they are something else. Whenever I see them live, I can’t help but think of one of their many hash ready anthems — #THISISFUCKINGAWESOME!
Having seen Macklemore quite a few times over the past few years, I really planned on skipping this show. I had heard nothing but horror stories about subzero temperatures on the Rocks last year, and I just figured spending $50 and fighting the cold for an artist I had seen at the Bluebird just a short time ago wasn’t something that appealed to my better senses. As it turned out, I found myself with nothing to do on Friday night and came across a $19 ticket on StubHub. Armed with that extremely cheap ticket, some fresh brewed coffee spiked with 100 proof Wild Turkey and a heavy jacket, I was off to my first Winter on the Rocks.
When I pulled into the South lot, it was a balmy 37 degrees outside. By the time I entered the venue, after a half hour wait on the stairs, I was literally sweating. I’ve experienced colder shows at Red Rocks in September! It was the perfect night to steal a show at my favorite venue, months before the season is scheduled to get started.
It was just after 9:00pm by the time I found a good spot on an endcap around row 25. Major Lazer were doing their thing and the crowd was feeling it. Gloved hands in the air and beanies bopping to the bass. There might have been snow under our feet, but there was no shortage of body heat to go around. The place was packed…but something was off. The top rows appeared empty. In fact, when the lights came on after the set, it was obvious that this venue was nowhere near capacity. No matter how many times Macklemore would allude to the 10,000 people in attendance, I’d place that number closer to 8,000. The only reason I find this odd is because the show was obviously sold-out. My guess is that the scalpers got a little ahead of themselves on this one. This explains why I was able to get a ticket for the price of a double cocktail, instead of the $150 they were going for just days earlier.
Macklemore has a history with Colorado, and although he is always repping Seattle, Denver is a sort of second home to him. The first show he ever played outside of the Pacific Northwest was in Denver, and last night he played to his largest audience outside of Seattle. Although his lyrics can be trite, and even a little juvenile at times, it is obvious he believes in everything he says. Does that make it better or worse? I’m not here to answer that question, but I can say there was a look a utter amazement on his face when he took that stage last night. 20 ft. flames blasting out of flanking firepots, Ryan Lewis 30 ft. above him, and the crowd live between the two monoliths — the appreciation and the sense of accomplishment was contagious. So much so that I forgot to cringe at “make sure the sound man doesn’t cock block the drums“, and within minutes I was singing along…
“Ten thousand hours
Felt like ten thousand ends
Ten thousand ends
They carry me“
…like I meant every word of it.
A slight suspension of disbelief is required to truly enjoy a show of this type. When someone threw a fur coat on the stage as a segue into “Thrift Shop”, Macklemore addressed those who give him shit about wearing fur. His argument being that these dead animals are better off stuntin’ on stage than hanging in some old ladies closet. When the aforementioned “Same Love” was performed from the middle of the crowd, that disbelief allowed for hope that a few (not so) clever rhymes really could change the world. Air Jordans, cowboy boots, flaming Bowies, Irish celebrations and lots of dancing and having a really, really, really good time — this all comes with the territory at a Macklemore show. And these seemingly random stories, clichés and one-liners are what make Macklemore a unique character. He is so busy being who he is, that he doesn’t even have time to try to be cool, or even second guess whether some of what he writes doesn’t really make sense at all. It’s all in good fun. Until he get serious…
“Same Love” is one thing, and even “Otherside” works despite itself, but when Macklemore gets on his soapbox about being sober, I snap back to reality. I understand that he went through some hard times with substance abuse, but c’mon, let’s get real. Smoking too much pot while playing video games and jerking off does not make you Jim Carroll. It doesn’t even make you Lindsey Lohen! “Otherside” hasn’t saved anyone’s life…so stop saying that. Obviously this is just my opinion, but I believe blowing that shit out of proportion is an epic fail.
Luckily, he didn’t dwell on the negative too long and by the end of the show everyone in the crowd (most of whom couldn’t have spelled sober by this point) were having too much fun to complain that the set ended with “Thrift Shop”, a song we had heard an hour or so earlier.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are living in their moment right now, so I can forgive them for wanting to perform their big hit as much as possible. Whether their moment will last remains to be seen, but I do believe they made some new fans last night. I overheard the guy next to me asking his friend “is this guy for real or is this a joke?” I don’t think he got an answer, but by the end of the night he was dancing and singing along with the rest of us. It didn’t take him long to figure out that it really doesn’t matter one way or the other.
Ten Thousand Hours
Life Is Cinema
My Oh My
Can’t Hold Us
And We Danced