News Column

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis more than worth the price of admission

May 14, 2013

YellowBrix

May 14--Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Mazomanie native Skylar Grey had a crowd advantage for their Turner Hall Ballroom show Sunday. With all the tickets being free courtesy of Yahoo as part of the online company's On the Road music series/promotional campaign, no one could say the show wasn't worth the price of admission.

But rapper Macklemore, backed by his producing partner Ryan Lewis, didn't treat Sunday's show as a freebie for fans, but rather as a golden opportunity to establish himself beyond No. 1 singles "Can't Hold Us" and "Thrift Shop," as a fresh, live act worth putting money down for.

Grey unfortunately failed to rally much momentum from her home state appearance as she prepares to release her debut album for Interscope Records in July.

Sunday's show came at the end of a very good week for Macklemore and Lewis, after being declared the first duo in Billboard history -- and the first act since Lady Gaga -- to have its first two singles reach the top of the charts. Predictably both "Thrift Shop" and "Can't Hold Us" killed in concert, particularly "Us," where the crowd was jumping and dancing with such force the floor felt like it was going to buckle. And just when it seemed the audience couldn't get any more excited, Macklemore climbed into the crowd, standing upright as fans hoisted him up, pumping his fists in the air.

Not to be outdone, Lewis leapt into the masses to crowd surf on a couple of occasions. Near the end of the 90-minute set, trumpet-playing hype man Owuor Arunga ripped his shirt in half like Hulk Hogan and spit water up in the air.

But Macklemore was the true star, with charmingly odd banter (he praised Lunchables) and physical behavior -- at one point appearing on stage as his kitschy alter ego with a golden curly wig and glittering cape.

Despite the show's campy fun factor, Macklemore's finest moment Sunday came from atmospheric "Same Love," a serious track promoting rights for same-sex marriage. Macklemore performed it twice (the concert was being streamed online, and there was reportedly a glitch with the first performance). Both performances were unique and heartfelt. Given the homophobic nature of some hip-hop songs, it was remarkable to hear hundreds of people, undoubtedly of different orientations, singing this song in unison. It was the strongest proof that Macklemore and Lewis aren't just two guys who may have lucked out with a couple of hits. It suggested that they may very well be changing the game.

Grey made her own mark on hip-hop by co-writing Eminem's Grammy-nominated hit "Love the Way You Lie," which got some of the strongest reaction during an opening set that saw her move from keyboard to acoustic guitar, backed by a DJ and drummer. But despite the sight of Wisconsin's outline tattooed on her arm, she didn't seem terribly excited to be back in her home state. Her detachment was appropriate for icy tracks like "Lie" and "Final Warning," but not for other songs like the cheeky "C'mon Let Me Ride." Undoubtedly the loud, indifferent chatter of the crowd killed her mood.

See performances from Sunday's show at the Yahoo on the Road website.

THE TAKEAWAYS

--In his best bit of banter, Macklemore talked about how he tried to find a vintage Ray Allen Milwaukee Bucks jersey at The Shops of Grand Avenue. But finding only jerseys that were too big, he ended up getting a suit for $100, complete with shoes and shiny golden shirt, which he wore for the first part of the show.

--Another great moment came when Macklemore called for the lights to be turned up so he could praise various ensembles in the crowd, from a guy with a sombrero to someone with a poncho. When he saw a guy with a fur coat, he had the crowd pass it to the stage and proudly wore it for "Thrift Shop."

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(c)2013 the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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