Macklemore as Sir Raven Bowie photo by Bobby Silver
I am by no means calling myself a Macklemore & Ryan Lewis apologist. Or am I saying the Seattle rapper and his producer who have sold over 1 million copies of their latest album “The Heist” really need an advocate. But, I did spend the bulk of Wednesday going to their show at the Value Center Arena half-heartedly justifying my attendance at the concert. My Macklemore & Ryan Lewis defense centers around 2 things: Their championing of gay rights on the song “Same Love,” and also them being ambassadors of Hip Hop culture in the mainstream. For “The Heist” Tour, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis brought Big K.R.I.T. and Talib Kweli as their opening support which is pretty Hip Hop. Granted I am the same guy who said “Hip Hop Hooray” when Miley Cyrus claimed to be having Juicy “Slob on My Knob” J’s lovechild on twitter. Def Jam Recording Artist Big K.R.I.T. performed first, backed by a deejay. After couple of songs, the humble but charismatic Mississippi rapper had the Value City Arena making driving motions with their hands to his song “Rotation.” I thought this was pretty impressive seeing that K.R.I.T. was the opening act in front of 6000 people who came out early because they probably listen to Macklemore on WNCI’s “The Morning Zoo” before heading to their cubicle jobs. A bulk of headlining rappers aren’t able to get their sound right in any room so it was cool to see K.R.I.T. have it together to rock right in an arena. K.R.I.T. rocked the room with just two turntables and microphone. It was somewhat funny watching the crowd get down to “My Trunk” because of it’s “Show Your Grill” hook is a tad on the 3-6 side. K.R.I.T. followed that up with the smooth and melodic “Moon & Stars.” K.R.I.T. performed a few more songs before going into the crowd during “Just Last Week” (sans Future) and ended with “R.E.M.” Big K.R.I.T. had the crowd yell his name a few times to affirm that he had left his mark and then departed. Macklemore sharing his audience with K.R.I.T. had proven to be effective. Brooklyn Hip Hop legend Talib Kweli took the stage next. Kweli took a more festival approach to the Value CIty Arena performance as he was backed by a band. Early on, Kweli played what I think was his song with Pretty Lights because I don’t know too many Kweli songs with a heavy electronic breakdown. After a few more songs, Kweli shouted out to Ohio and Columbus’s own J. Rawls before doing “Move Somethin’ by his group with Cincinnati producer Hi-Tek. Kweli did a portion of his Kanye West song off “College Registration,” “Get Em High” before cutting it because he felt the song’s lyrics were a bit much for the family setting of an Arena. Kweli quipped at how real K.R.I.T. had kept it earlier in the evening. He delivered a few more joints and then brought out a Philly female singer named Res from his group Idle Worship to cover Fleetwood Mac and the Beatles. Kweli ended his set with his biggest hit “Get By.” After an intermission, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis took the stage after an explosion of lasers, and teenage girl's screams. Macklemore was in the front and Ryan Lewis was elevated with various equipment and flanked by a live band and large LED screen that broadcast images of various things including movie clips from “White Men Can’t Jump” and “The Warriors” in between the posting of their song titles in large fonts. This was especially helpful early during the song “Life Is a Cinema.” After that, Macklemore told a story about skinny dipping in what sounded like Mirror Lake and getting robbed for his clothes as a segue into his mega-hit about bargain hunting at the Goodwill, “Thriftshop” which erupted with glitter and fire. I thought it was interesting he played such a huge song early. It turned out Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s audience knew their catalog well, though. Macklemore has an excellent rapport. When Macklemore did an a capella about overcoming drug abuse, the crowd held onto every word with an extreme intimacy that definitely showed a Slug influence. Shortly thereafter Macklemore performed the poignant championing of gay marriage, “Same Love.” Say what you will about Macklemore being a popular white rapper, but it won’t change the fact that he wrote a protest song that will be around forever. Macklemore performed a few more songs before playing his and Ryan Lewis' version of a Black Eyed Peas mega-hit, “Can’t Hold Us,” “White Walls” and “Michael Jordan.” Macklemore came back for an encore dressed as his British alter-ego, Sir Raven Bowie, to climax the night in a dance party to various hits that I had enough of while lasers, fire and confetti rained down. Sir Raven's suit had a bit of Red, White and Boom to it. That was the moment I realized I had no business being there.

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