About 4,000 local fans had their hands up like the PNE Forum’s ceiling couldn’t hold them last night as hip hop duo Macklemore & Lewis kicked off their North American tour in Vancouver.
The rappers were in town promoting This Unruly Mess I’ve Made, a solid follow up to 2013’s Grammy award-winning album The Heist that hasn’t quite matched the success of their previous record. “Downtown”, Mess‘s messy first single, failed to crack Billboard’s top 10 chart despite guest appearances by Kool Moe Dee and Melle Mel. Second single “White Privilege II” ignited a firestorm on social media when the duo called out other performers by name for dabbling in cultural appropriation, but controversy didn’t translate into record sales and the song quickly disappeared from radio.
None of that mattered to the packed PNE Forum last night. After Macklemore declared “there’s no sitting down in hip hop!”, fans got out their seats and jumped around to familiar hits like “Can’t Hold Us” and “Thrift Shop”.
The Seattle rappers are no strangers to Vancouver, having played tiny concert halls around the city before they hit it big. Macklemore told us about one seedy venue in particular and said that “it’s been a fucking struggle to get across the border” ever since he performed there.
“This is the first show of the North American tour,” he told us. “And when I cross that border tomorrow and they’re like ‘yo, how was your first show in Canada?’, I want to be able to say ‘our brothers and sisters from the North are turnt the fuck UP!'”
Party anthems like “Let’s Eat” and “White Walls” were big crowd pleasers, but the duo got political when it came time to perform “Same Love”.
“We are in a time in America, where we’re from, where we’re scared as shit,” Macklemore said. “We have this thing called a presidential election happening, and it seems like there is this tendency to use fear as a way to motivate the masses. To use hatred to motivate the masses.”
“And I don’t personally care what you look like,” he continued. “I don’t care what religion you subscribe to. I don’t care about your gender, your skin tone – I care about the compass that’s inside your chest. At the end of the day, hate will never be able to prevail over love.”
The rapper addressed the presidential election again later in the show, saying “I’m fucking scared of Donald Trump! I’m not scared of him, like, as a person – I’m scared of his shade of orange but I’m not scared of him as a person.”
After giving a brief shout out to his Canadian family in the audience, he promised us that “if Donald Trump does happen to become President of the United States of America, best believe I’m using my dual citizenship card.”
Despite the heavy tone, the guys were in a great mood for the entire show. Macklemore especially – the rapper drew a picture onstage during “Brad Pitt’s Cousin” and gave it to a lucky audience member, and later offered up a tray of Nanaimo bars to fans in the front row.
He saved one bar to toss into the general admission crowd, saying “I was on Wikipedia earlier today and I learned that nobody in the history of hip hop has ever thrown a Nanaimo bar from the stage! This is the first time ever!”
“Now it’s an interesting substance,” he continued. “And it’s already melting in my hand.” He threw the treat towards a fan wearing a cast but missed the poor guy by a mile. “I feel like there could have been a little more effort on your part but that’s okay,” Macklemore told him. “It’s the cast, not the throw.”
The pair finished with “Downtown” and “Dance Off”, for which they invited two fans onstage to battle it out Step Up 2: The Streets-style. The crowd lost their collective minds, and Macklemore was clearly feeling the love.
“When we put this tour on sale, the first show to sell out on the entire tour was right here in Vancouver,” he told us. “You guys are a smart group of people.”