Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
With Big K.R.I.T. and Talib Kweli
American Airlines Arena, Miami
Sunday, November 24, 2013
Better Than: We could have ever expected.
That man was Macklemore speaking to Crossfade in an interview leading up to last night's performance at the American Airlines Arena. And though the words rang true at the time, we had no idea how affected we'd be by that so-called "live element" until we experienced it firsthand.
What happened in that championship venue was nothing short of magical. Curfews be damned, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ain't frontin' when they say not even the ceiling can hold us.
We braved the wind and rain to get to the AAA just after the doors had opened. But some unfortunate ticket business kept us waiting for a while, and we missed what must have been an energetic set from Mississippi's Big K.R.I.T.
Thank our lucky stars, though, we reached our seats just in time to catch the legendary Talib Kweli chiding the young audience for not knowing Nina Simone. (Seriously, did anyone know Kweli was going to be there? Best surprise opener ever!)
He wrapped his set with "Get By," a personal favorite of ours, and the stage went dark for about thirty minutes, as the roadies readied it for the headliners.
The floor was packed tight with excited fans who screamed enthusiastically when a giant black curtain reading "The Heist" unfurled.
At about 9 p.m., the house lights dimmed and a soft melody could be heard, played on strings and piano. The beats kicked in, and soon, you could make out each piece of the band: cello, violin, trumpets, trombone, percussion.
The giant "Heist" flag came tumbling down and Ryan Lewis, at the top of the stage, stood in the spotlight with his hands in the air.
The crowd went wild when, suddenly, Macklemore rose from beneath the floor on a platform, rocking a shiny gold jacket and pants. He jumped down with a blast of fireworks and screamed "Miami!" The best show ever had officially begun.
"How y'all doing tonight?" the blonde rapper asked. People just screamed. To which he replied, "Me too."
They ripped through "10,000 Hours," rappin' how it was "about damn time that I got out of my basement." To think, only a year ago, the idea of playing arenas was only a dream to these guys.
Throughout the night, it was obvious that their excitement was real, their humility refreshing, and that not a single break for applause was being taken for granted.
"It's so good to be performing in Miami for the first time ever," Macklemore said between songs, the crowd totally unprepared for the bomb he was about to drop on us. "I love this city for some different reasons, but tonight is especially special, because tonight, we are going to be going live to the American Music Awards!"
Oh yes, a few minutes of this very concert would be broadcast live to millions of viewers around the country. And as Macklemore admitted, this was good because if Miami knows anything, it's how to party.
The crew worked through a few songs, riding on the high of the moment. The crowd sang along to every word in every song, and Macklemore would milk them for every scream in between. After "Life is Cinema," he regailed us with the story of his day, telling how he drove a moped straight to South Beach, ate Cuban food and admired the overall stylishness of our city.
He ordered the house lights to come on and pulled a Drake move, shouting out the members of the audience and what they were wearing. But he pointed out one man as the most stylish in the crowd, a dude in a full-on leopard fur, and asked for the crowd to surf the jacket up so he might take a closer look. Of course, this resulted in his wearing the fur while performing the famed "Thrift Shop," then he admirably returned the fur to the owner. We're pretty sure the fan didn't mind the artist's sweat.
Performing their breakout hit worked for the band. It brought anyone still sitting to their feet, and Mackelmore's giant stage presence kept the energy at a constant climb. But it's not just Macklemore running the stage. Dancers came out and brought the heat, the horn players ran around the stage, featured hook-singer Wanz hit the stage glittering in a dope white sequin suit. Actual racks of clothes appeared to bring the music video to life. It was over the top madness.
The show was a real roller coaster, and Macklemore followed that hype with a sobering speech about his own struggles with addiction. He told us he started using drugs and drinking at 14, and how he did nothing with his life until he got sober in 2008 and met Ryan Lewis. He went into a moving acapella of "Otherside," the duo's first collaboration, and that melted into a full rendition of "Starting Over," performed in a make-shift living room.
We all felt so close in the giant arena, then he hit us with a speech about how no government or religion can tell you who you are and what your heart feels, setting us up for the politically-minded "Same Love." Again, featured singer Mary Lambert appeared on stage. We were moved to near tears for the second time, but certainly not the last. Macklemore, Ryan Lewis and their friends will make you fucking cry.
Again, Lambert looked like she might just die happily where she stood, soaking in the cheers and admiration. We're sure we've never seen a group of people so happy to be performing for anyone.
Macklemore got on the mic and started talking about how great it was to share this moment with us, but then started talking about how he missed the old school beatboxin' days, and asked if he might beatbox over a loop and freestyle for us. He did just that, looping a sick beat that the band jazzed out on, then unleashed a furious tale of struggle, booking his own shows, flyering in the streets, all leading to this moment where he's winning AMAs and playing for us in the 305. He was all "Can I kick it?" and we were all "Yes you can."
"Do it for yourself, cause nobody out there believed it," he rhymed. "That's my DJ, and we made it to the AMAs."
That was our cue, and he said people in his ear mumbled that we were about to be on. Suddenly, Justin Timberlake appeared on the jumbo screens, accepting an award for Favorite Soul/R&B Album.
"Thank me," Macklemore joked on his platform, nervously awaiting the cue from his earpiece. Suddenly, the announcer said something about "live from Miami," and our energy reached Everest heights. The melody of "Can't Hold Us" sparked up, then fire, explosions, confetti, clapping, screaming, sweating, jumping. We did it all, because we were on TV!
"How cool was that shit?" Lewis roared as Macklemore ran backstage to change clothes. Images from their latest video for "White Walls" glowed on screen, then the rapper emerged dressed in his Mariachi outfit. After that, they did "Wings," a giant "M" spelled out in hanging sneakers as Mackelmore spit about kids dying over Nikes, ironically still rockin' the brand on stage.
After the chords died, he hung in a gracious bow, then thanked the audience and ran off into the dark. "One more song," we all chanted, convinced it wasn't over - and it wasn't.
The encore was introduced with a playful video, Macklemore donned in a wig and shiny cape appearing as his alter ego Raven Bowie to perform "And We Danced." He was all "Thank you for letting me ride a moped naked through South Beach. Thank you for letting me ride the back of a dolphin. Thank you for letting me take a nap at Rick Ross' house." We really, really hope he did.
Again, he dipped out, then returned in regular dress to perform "Irish Celebration." We were all about it, because we're Irish as fuhk, and again, we almost cried when Irish flag-colored confetti filled the room until we couldn't see anything else. Macklemore bowed again, pulling out his ear plugs and ignoring the rants of the venue employees telling him the show had to come to a close.
He took his sweet time introducing each band member (His trombone player is apparently the voice of Simba in Lion King, the Beast in Beauty and the Beast, and Sebastian in The Little Mermaid. Is this real life?) After the intros and a special chant of Ryan Lewis' name, he sadly told us that the people in his ear said we were after curfew, and the time to shut the show down was upon us. The crowd was not about this.
"I heard someone over there say 'fuck the system,'" he said. "I don't know what she meant by that, but I interpret that as, they don't tell us when to turn the music off, we tell them when to turn the music up. They don't control the music, the people control the music. And because you turned the energy up in front of millions of people, we don't care if we get fined. Ryan Lewis, bring it back!"
We were treated to one more over-the-top rendition of "Can't Hold Us" as giant orange balloons fell from the ceiling and fireworks exploded on stage. Macklemore dove right into the arms of the crowd as Ray Dalton sang the hook and everybody from the front to the back jumped like their lives depended on it. The night was hitting its final peak, and we knew it was real this time.
"Miami," Macklemore said, signing off with love in his voice. "I just want to say thank you. Like I said before, this is our first time ever playing in Miami, and I can't imagine a better introduction to this wonderful city."
He thanked us for attending, for showing them love, "and most importantly, for supporting independent hip-hop music tonight. We won an AMA!" He led us in a count of three and a loud roar of "peace," before finally bowing out.
"My name is Macklemore, good night."
And thus ended one of the greatest shows we've ever witnessed in our entire lives. We know Macklemore and Ryan Lewis catch some flak from hip-hop heads, like they're not as hard as they should be or maybe they're music is too catchy - we don't even know what that argument is about anymore. That's a bunch of hater blah blah. We are signed up fans of that crew for the rest of our lives. We couldn't even tell you everything that happened. It was simply too much. But we will say this: Don't miss their show again. It's well worth it.
-"Life is Cinema"
-"Can't Hold Us"
-"And We Danced"
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-"Can's Hold Us"
Follow Kat Bein on Twitter @KatSaysKill.