5 things learned at a Macklemore & Ryan Lewis secret show

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Macklmore greeting a crowd of 600 fans from the roof of Neumos

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis christened their new album, The Heist, Sunday night with a “secret show” at Neumos. Secret is in quotes because two giant 20-foot banners were dropped on the side of Neumos announcing the show at 9 a.m., so they weren’t being all too secret about the show. Actually, it turns out that the folks at Vitamin Water started planning the show in May and very impressively managed to keep a lid on things until the day of show, but once the cat was out of the bag the Macklemore faithful showed up in full force.

Not only did the show serve as the duo’s tour kickoff, it also was a bit of a storytellers session with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis talking about the inspiration behind every song they performed.  This approach made an already intimate club show feel even more like an up close encounter with one of Seattle’s biggest rising stars. The main setlist consisted entirely of material from The Heist with the encore bringing the usual one-two closing punch of “And We Danced” and “Irish Celebration.” A lot happened in th 75 minutes between opener “Ten Thousand Hours” and the show closer. Here’s what I learned during Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “secret” show.

“Thrift Shop” isn’t just a song, it’s a lifestyle: The stage was set up to resemble Macklemore‘s living room. The decor included a lamp, couch, typewriter, a taxidermied animal … you know, stuff that you might see in Macklemore’s living room. Mack later told the crowd that a lot of the items on stage did indeed come from his home, so the set definitely had an aura of authenticity and given Macklemore’s reputation it’s pretty much a given all of the stage props were thrift shop purchases. And speaking of “Thrift Shop,” it was the second song in the set and it sounded ridiculously killer blasting over Neumos’ soundsystem. Expect this song to become Mack’s next big hit.

He gets by with a little help from his friends: Sure Ryan Lewis is the Goose to his Maverick, but as the saying goes, it takes a village and Macklemore made sure to acknowledge the village that helped him get to where he is at today. Macklemore was joined by several guests including Buffalo Madonna (Mad Rad), Hollis Wong-Wear (The Flavr Blue), Wanz, Ray Dalton, Mary Lambert and others. During the storytelling portions of the show we found out Buffalo Madonna is one of Macklemore’s favorite performers and that Hollis Wong-Wear is his inspirational writing buddy. During “Starting Over,” the song that provides the most emotional punch on The Heist,  Macklemore broke down and shed some tears while telling his tale of relapsing from addiction to prescription cough syrup. Seeing such a charismatic performer in a raw, vulnerable state is something I won’t forget any time soon.

The kids are alright: Another emotional highlight came early during the set when the crowd, most of which were teens, sang every word to the marriage equality anthem “Same Love.” It was the first time the song was performed live and witnessing its first performance was goosebump-worthy moment. Add in the 600ish teens singing every word along with Mack and putting as much passion and heart into it to match what was coming from the stage and it became a truly amazing moment. Not only was it proof that there is hope for the future (remember kids, vote yes on Ref. 74), it was one of the most beautiful live performances I have ever witnessed. The video below doesn’t do it justice, but it is a glimpse of the magic that happened.

Who needs major labels?: You’d be foolish to think Macklemore and Ryan Lewis haven’t been approached by major labels. After “Jimmy Iovine,” a fictional tale about declining a big record deal, Macklemore told the crowd that they’d talked with just about every major label but took a pass at every offer they recieved. “You get there and finally see what you’ve always wanted,” he said. “But then you realize that it’s not everything you thought it was.” He then continued to praise his team and his fans for helping him stay centered and focused and maintain his independence. “You can’t buy this type of fanbase.”

Don’t tell Macklemore what he can’t do: Of course it wouldn’t be a Macklemore show without some humor and there were plenty of laughable moments to go along with Mack’s heart-on-his sleeve tales. After “White Walls,” a song about white-walled tires on a Cadillac, Macklemore made sure to let everyone know he’s kept his sense of humor. “People say you’re a conscious rapper. You can’t rap about cars,” he said. “And I was like, watch me do it.”

Travis Hay

About Travis Hay

Travis Hay is a professional music journalist who has spent the past 14 years documenting and enjoying Seattle's diverse music scene. In 2009 he established Guerrilla Candy and is currently the site's editor and publisher. He has written for various media outlets including MSN Music, the Seattle-Post Intelligencer, Seattle Weekly, Crosscut.com and others and was the founder and editor of defunct music site Ear Candy.