Concert review: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Vector Arena

By Chris Schulz

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Four Grammy awards, at least as many hit singles to his name, industry tastemakers singing his praises and a heaving, sweaty and up-for-it Auckland venue applauding his every move.

No wonder Ben Haggerty - that's Macklemore's real name - was smiling broadly as he bounded onto Vector Arena's stage in front of 6000 screaming fans, throwing himself around with the serene air of a made man.

It's clear that Macklemore's recent rise to the top - including a shock Best New Artist Grammy win over favourite Kendrick Lamar in January - has afforded the Seattle rapper and his DJ-producer sidekick Ryan Lewis a few live luxuries.

For starters, he's got a much larger crew with him on stage, including Lewis, three trumpet players, several singers, a string section, guitarist and a dance crew.

Twelve months ago in the same venue, he played his breakthrough hit Thrift Shop twice to pad out the set.

But tonight Macklemore got away with dropping his ode to op-shopping early, embracing the song's novelty appeal with a pyjama-clad dance team, trumpet players and glitter cannons backing his bonkers raps about faux fur jackets.

He's got bigger and better songs these days, like the marching drum carnival stride of Can't Hold Us, which saw the rapper dressing up in a Mariachi-style suit to match the song's Mexican-style trumpet riffs. He does like a goofy outfit, does Macklemore.

Then there was the quickfire follow-up White Walls, his bass-heavy blast about the joys of Cadillacs that had Macklemore diving into the crowd's front rows and standing on shoulders to deliver the driving chorus as colourful streamers plumed above him.

Aside from the heart-on-sleeve singalong that was his same-sex anthem Same Love, Macklemore was here to party, a point proved by his bonkers outfit - think Megadeth front man Dave Mustaine dressed for a rave - donned for the high-energy encore hijinks of And We Danced.

Yep, Macklemore's earnest between-song sermons - dude, you don't need to chat to us between every single song - grew tiresome, and constantly citing his love for New Zealand made you wonder if local tourism operators were cutting him some coin.

But you can't help but be drawn into Macklemore's magnetic mile-wide smile and his knack for spreading feel-good vibes with every move - especially when he delivered synth-pop stand out Irish Celebration as a celebratory closer, gasping for air as he saluted the crowd one last time.

He's got his detractors from those who accuse him of appropriating hip-hop for a pop audience. But after tonight's show, there wouldn't be a single Macklemore hater leaving Vector Arena.

Earlier, Tinie Tempah proved to be a perfect opening partner, delivering a set of dubstep and grime-influenced hip-hop that rattled rib cages and rooftops - especially during the futuristic thrills of Earthquake, Trampoline and his early 2009 hit Pass Out - and was worth arriving early for.

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Tinie Tempah
Where: Vector Arena, Auckland
When: Thursday, March 13

- nzherald.co.nz

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