Review: Macklemore at Festival Hall, Melbourne, 6 February 2018
Macklemore came in steaming hot for the first of his two Melbourne shows, laying down his ever-growing catalogue of hits with a ferocious energy that had the crowd hanging on every beat, bar and turn of phrase.
Fellow Seattle MCs Xperience and Dave B took on support duties, both having featured on Macklemore’s latest offering, Gemini. They’re sharp, and although the crowd isn’t shouting every word back at the stage, Dave B has the audience heading towards fever pitch by the time Macklemore is due.
Two trumpets announce his arrival and with a live band and Eric Nally on stage, Macklemore launches into the opening track off Gemini, ‘Ain’t Gonna Die Tonight’. Nally has become a frequent collaborator with Macklemore and it’s easy to see where the Freddie Mercury comparisons come from. The lithe, moustached singer dances around stage with a powerful, flawless voice, and it really feels like “history is ours tonight”.
The lights dim and Macklemore has the spotlight. He stands, arms raised, and takes it all in.
“We came here from Washington and goddamn it is hot,” he says, a nod to Festival Hall’s ever-present, apocalyptic heat. “I know it’s Tuesday and you’re not even halfway through the working week, but we’re here for a hip-hop show,” he continues, and launches into a medley of tracks including the apt ‘Firebreather’ and, of course, ‘Thrift Shop’.
Once he’s done poppin’ tags, Macklemore takes a moment to talk about the recent controversy surrounding his performance at the NRL Grand Final.
“I was scared to play, I was nervous,” he says, but “when I held that mic I felt something from the audience. No hatred, no fear… and from the bottom of my heart, congratulations Australia.”
‘Same Love’ follows this, naturally, and the crowd belts out every word. It’s a softer moment in an otherwise relentless set which features ‘Can’t Hold Us’, ‘Corner Store’, ‘Downtown’, ‘Dance Off’, ‘Good Old Days’ and ‘Willy Wonka’, notable for its questionable boast that “Bitch I’m Willy Wonka”.
Macklemore is a divisive figure in the music world, especially after The Heist took out the Grammy for Best Rap Album in 2014, but there’s no denying that the man can perform.
He hits his cues perfectly and even brings two members of the crowd on stage for a dance off, though their moves are, shall we say, interpretive. “I sometimes forget dance moves in the heat too,” he offers once they’re off the stage.
Macklemore closes the set to ‘Glorious’, telling the crowd “you know I couldn’t go without playing my grandma’s cut”. The applause is thunderous and the crowd leave drenched in sweat, spilling into the cool reprieve of the night.
Though Macklemore’s tracks swing between the philosophical and anthemic, he’s self-aware and forgoes his more introspective tracks in favour of the tried and tested bangers. It works, culminating in a frenetic live show that leaves you feeling, as he best puts it, glorious.