Macklemore & Ryan Lewis w/ Tinie Tempah

ARTS, Music

img_macklemoreAustralasian Tour, 2014
TSB Bank Arena, Wellington | March 12; 13 (Auckland)

Acclaimed Seattle hip hop duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis blew the Wellington TSB Bank Arena away last night with a high octane performance that solidified their recent four Grammy wins—doing so with a genuine appreciation for the creative capital.

For just over an hour, MC Ben Haggarty and Producer Ryan Lewis proved just why their DIY approach to production and honest lyricism—touching on subject matters of substance abuse, consumerism, and same sex marriage—have been favoured enough to bring them back to New Zealand for the second time in the space of thirteen months.

First up, however, was UK Hip Hop and Grime protégé Tinie Tempah. My last encounter with Tinie was at Rhythm and Vines a few years back, and since then the MC has released his second album Demonstration, leading the simple electronic and urban fused hooks of his back catalogue down a bass-heavy influenced road.

The one-two punch of ‘Mosh-Pit’ and Diplo produced ‘Trampoline’ send the general admission attendees airborne. Throughout the set he urges us to download his music, and also comments that it’s the first time he’s worn a hat onstage. Big news, obviously, but he’s also wearing sunglasses inside, so one is surprised.

He polishes off the set with favourites ‘Written In The Stars’ and ‘Miami 2 Ibiza’, and as the final song and most popular hit ‘Pass Out’ finishes, the crowd scramble for the floral cap thrown out. Too cool Tinie struts off stage and I can’t help but feel the change in sonic direction has left his re-vamped set (and ego) all bass and tinie substance.

A short interval and a series of white lights beam down centre stage, and the critically acclaimed socially conscience hip hop partnership begin their take on Wellington. The lights fade to black and opener ‘Ten Thousand Hours’ from the Grammy award winning album The Heist paves into the arena to an applause from the diverse crowd.

Straight into ‘Crew Cut’, Macklemore’s energetic stage presence is on par with his communication with the thousands of punters in attendance. Arriving on the back of the Australian electronic Future Music Festival, Haggarty—with a confident smirk—states he couldn’t wait to return to Wellington due to the stylish and hedonistic mentality he encountered at last year’s Opera House gig. With a proud roar from the crowd, the live band (featuring brass, keys, percussion and backup singers), surge into iconic single ‘Thrift Shop’ and the whole arena dances and bounces to the beat.

Taking the Best New Artist, Best Rap Album, Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance awards at the Grammys meant there was always going to be high expectations riding, but the Seattle duo display that they are whole heartedly ready to embrace their roles as world-class entertainers.

During the speech preceding highlight ‘Same Love’, Macklemore offers up the personal ideals that frame a good deal of his work—a universal acceptance of human flesh and bones, pure and simple—asserting that no government, state, or religion can alter that one love. It’s a poignant rendition of the track and feels much more genuine without the spectacle of sentimentality that Queen Latifah and Madonna brought to the Grammy performance.

Macklemore’s now-beaten addiction to prescription medication is touched upon during the acapella version of ‘Otherside’, and, if only for a glimmer of a moment, his approach extends into a monologue of the pitfalls of drug abuse. Yes, he has a right, but this felt overtly preached.

But the moment passes and he’s relaying his conversations with Snoop Dogg that Wellington truly is the craziest crowd. Another adrenaline rush looms as he challenges us to up the ante during ‘Can’t Hold Us’, with the crowd responding in ballistic fashion.

The venue is almost packed out and the light show is very well done, with two large screens on either side of the stage allowing even those seated further behind (myself included) to see each stride made onstage.

A swift costume change into Mexican influenced attire for recent single ‘White Walls’, and their social commentary on consumerism via popular single ‘Wings’ end the later end of the set, before the band quickly return for the encore.

Sporting that ridiculous wig, Macklemore and company return for a tongue and cheek performance of ‘And We Danced’ much to the crowd’s approval, and finish the concert with ‘Irish Celebration’, complete with woo-ooos chanted and a New Zealand flag waved at the end.

Before leaving the stage Macklemore pays his due to the talented selection of musicians in the band and praises Ryan Lewis for his expertise in production, music video creation, and just generally being a great friend. The acclaimed pair leave the stage as James Brown’s ‘I Feel Good’ blares through the speakers and I leave pleased and hoping the next time I see the duo, it’ll be on the back of the next record. More, please, B.H. and R.L.

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James Manning is a music contributor. He also writes for other national music publications including Rip It Up, Groove Guide, and NZ Musician.