December 12th 2013
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Bring Their Hearts and Beats to San Francisco
Party Corps had a blast last Saturday watching Macklemore and Ryan Lewis perform at the Bill Graham Civic Center in San Francisco. We found ourselves continuously recapping our experiences from the concert, and then thought; since we’re having these awesome discussions about our impressions of the show, why not write a blog documenting our conversations about the night?
What were the 3 things you liked most about the show?
Alexis: All I have to say is E-40!!! What an awesome surprise guest to join the Macklemore set. E-40 is a Bay Area institution, representing independent rap success, but also a juxtaposition to the messaging in Macklemore’s music. To see these two powerhouses collaborate speaks greatly to the credibility in Macklemore’s rapping abilities, but also leaves me thinking that E-40 might be more open-minded than I perceived him to be. Regardless of the contradictions that exist in their messaging it was a music lover’s paradise to hear these two perform on the same evening.
Elena: Yeah, I’m totally going to second that. Having E-40 come out and perform was AMAZING! I had no clue that was going to happen, and to have two people who have stayed true to their sound and remained independent artists on the same stage was a great surprise. In fact to make this all encompassing, I’m going to make this answer span the spectrum of collaborations that we saw throughout the night because I can’t leave out the awe-inspiring moment where Talib Kweli took the stage with Macklemore.
Alexis: I’m a huge Talib Kweli fan and was super stoked to see him perform. He was seamless in his performance, working the stage with great presence, and flawless execution of hip hop lyricism.
Elena: I was impressed with the way all the performers engaged the audience. Macklemore told this great story about swimming in the bay. I don’t know if it was true, and frankly, I don’t care. Even if it’s completely false, I like that he took the time to customize his performance and really thought about how to engage his audience. That’s what Party Corps’ concerts are all about, not only the live performance, but the dialogue with the musicians so it was nice that Macklemore also has that value.
Alexis: Having Mary Lambert come out was a huge surprise and really took “Same Love” to the next level. I’ll go into this more later in our conversation, but hearing her perform with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis truly blew me away. Last time I saw Macklemore in concert, they used a recorded version of her voice, and that wasn’t as powerful as seeing and hearing her on stage.
Elena: My last take from the show was more of an observance regarding Macklemore’s fans. I was fascinated by the demographic at the show, which was skewed young. It’s rare that at 29 years of age I attend a concert and feel old. The audience appeared to be largely affluent and in their late teens. I’m actually encouraged by this because these are young people with privilege who can take Macklemore’s socially conscious message and become allies for positive change in their communities…and hey, if you don’t know where to start, Party Corps can help!
Alexis: Yes, I noticed that as well. In fact that was my answer to our next question.
Was there anything about his performance that surprised you or you weren’t expecting?
Alexis: I was surprised by the demographic of this show. Maybe because I saw Macklemore before with a much different crowd, but looking around I was surprised to see hundreds of teenagers and minimal ethnic diversity. I’ve always thought of Macklemore as a performer that attracts a wide variety of fans and the audience appeared one dimensional; the whole thing threw me off a bit.
Elena: This was my first time seeing Macklemore and Ryan Lewis live so I didn’t really know what to expect, and the level of showmanship was impressive. His performance was captivating from the start. It also helped that he had three encores.
What differentiates Macklemore’s live show from that of other rap concerts you’ve attended?
Alexis: It’s not just rap shows that differentiate Macklemore’s live show performance from other concerts; it’s also rock, techno, and a variety of genres. Macklemore’s concerts are full of purposeful entertainment, character development, coupled with theatrical elements, and a socially conscious message. He also shares his message of sobriety at each of his shows, and this is a topic that isn’t part of the general rap culture. His courage to share this aspect of his personal life with his fans, to go against the grain of what’s common practice in most concert venue settings, highlights his strength and nonconformist spirit.
Elena: I agree. Rap is an amazingly activist form of music, but it doesn’t always translate well to live performance. Sometimes the beats and lyrics that come together so holistically on an album, end up colliding during a live performance. This was not the case with Macklemore’s concert, and I say concert because Talib Kweli’s performance was also perfectly aligned. With both artists, the beats and raps worked as a cohesive unit, neither component overpowering another. That can be rare to find in a rap performance that takes place in such a large venue, and both Macklemore and Talib Kweli mastered it.
Alexis: Overall, from the costumes, the stage design, the level of personal disclosure he provides in his storytelling, he’s a rap game-changer.
Did you think his performance style or socially conscious messaging was the most powerful part of the night?
Alexis: When I saw Macklemore for the first time earlier this year, the show production was scaled back compared to his concert at the Bill Graham Civic Center. I found the balloons, confetti spray, and massive fire flames that shot off the stage, to be fun but distracting. There was something about the first time I saw Macklemore that brought me in closer to his energy and his message, and I think my senses were more focused on him, his message, when all of the flair wasn’t distracting my attention. However, I loved the added visuals that he integrated with his “Same Love” song for this particular show. Having large flags of all the states that had legalized gay marriage, flashing with beautiful dominance as Mary Lambert walked onto the stage, my whole being was brought into the moment, and I was overwhelmed by joy.
Elena: He earned points in my book the second he pulled out that Irish flag. In my opinion he could have put away the balloons, flames shooting out of the stage, multiple bursts of confetti, and just kept the flag and I would have been satisfied with the visuals. In all seriousness though, the added glam was great and totally fun, but his socially conscious messaging was what resonated with me and will stay in my memory. He really understands that music is a powerful medium that can critique and change society, and he doesn’t take that for granted in his lyrics. It’s nice, because here at Party Corps we all believe in that message. That’s why we’ve dedicated our lives to this work. To have an amazing artist such as Macklemore basically say through his performance and his lyrics that he’s onboard, validates our work and also reinforces the fact that every individual can contribute to larger more sustainable change.