It’s not every day a well-known Seattle artist decides to open his world tour in Luxembourg and you, a passport holder from Seattle living as a local in Luxembourg, are there to see it.
Life may be an Unruly Mess but sometimes the stars align and you get to be part of the magic. Whether that magic has anything to do with tax laws is completely beside the point.
Last night 5,500 standing fans including a sizable outpost of Seattleites flashing Seahawks, Sounders and old school Sonics jerseys gathered in Luxembourg’s Rockhal for the kickoff of MACKLEMORE and RYAN LEWIS'S new “Unruly Mess Tour.” The show did not disappoint. Though it was unarguably weird being at a rap concert where half the crowd was drinking Cremant from plastic champagne glasses.
For those of us still warming to the new album, Macklemore drew us in, and for those of us with nostalgia for the award-winning “The Heist” he brought us back for a visit. He opened with three tracks off his new album, the story rich “Light Tunnels” about his conflicted Grammy win, the vaporous and strange “Brad Pitt’s Cousin”, and the graffiti ditty “Buckshot” before returning us to the “Thrift Shop.” WHAT, WHAT could be a better way to get the party started? Other Heist songs in the set were the exultant “Can’t Hold Us,” the pimp-my-ride “White Walls” and the tender wonder hit “Same Love.”
It’s a treat to watch a performer who has natural showmanship sweat it out on your behalf. Being flanked by a trio of horn players and orchestra and immersed in huge video screens make it that much better. Luxembourg could have been used as a warm up, but Macklemore’s engagement with the crowd and tight set proved otherwise. Already a fan of the tender “Growing Up”, the highlights of his new material was the story telling songs “Kevin” and “St. Ides” and the fun if not great “Downtown” and “Dance Off” … where in fact there was a dance off between a guy in a tank top and a woman in a fur coat. Tank top won.
It’s not only that Macklemore is from Seattle but the city features so heavily in his music that for many of us he brought not just his energy, his message(s), but also a piece of home. When he sang the lyric, “Traffic movement kinda slow now. I watch a population grow wild. A bunch of people I don't know now. My city's changed …” it’s the same lament we make every time we go back home.
When he performed his Heist song “Wings” about a pair of basketball shoes I couldn’t help but wonder if he was at the Washington State Basketball tournament last weekend where Garfield High School (my son’s old high school and in Macklemore’s hood) was upset by Rainier Beach in the semi-final. A game we, basketball lovers like him, would have been at but for the 5,000 miles.
And when the video screen flashed to a downtown scene of Seattle – the iconic Metropolitan Grill steakhouse on 2nd and Columbia St. – it rushed me back to my first job when I was 21 years old working across the street in the Norton Building. I was reminded that we can be from the same place and yet have vastly different experience of rituals, relationships and realities. I didn’t have a best friend die at 21 years old from a prescription drug overdose.
For some people, Macklemore’s bounce between fun songs and songs with a message might be dizzying. But I like it. I love the Gospel and music that makes you want to grind.
Social conscience is the pulse of Macklemore’s music. I want to be challenged to a Dance Off in the same way I want to be challenged to listen for things that are true whether they are inside or outside my walls of experience. We don’t have to share a zip code to hear the truth that “Sometimes you just have to wait” or “The quickest way to happiness? Learning to be selfless.”
I may not share the context when he sings, “I know the devil fancy me but that don't mean that motherf* get to dance with me!” ... but the feeling of being chased by a force that doesn’t have your best interest in mind, that I know.