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Concert Reviews, Music

Concert Review: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Spread The Love At Sound Academy In Toronto

By: Adam Harrison –

Macklemore at Showbox at the Market – Seattle in 2011. (Photo by: Dave Lichterman)

Every thrift shop in Toronto was busy this week and the fur coats were out Friday night at the Sound Academy as recent iTunes wonder Macklemore & Ryan Lewis stopped by to share the love from their first official album together, The Heist.

Two months ago no one had heard of this white hipster rapper from Seattle, but a combination of his inspirational, relevant lyrics and collaboration with hip hop producer/DJ Ryan Lewis sent The Heist and two of their singles to number one on iTunes. The Toronto show was upgraded to a bigger venue and still sold out quickly.

The Sound Academy was packed to the brim with a younger than average crowd. There was a different layout to accommodate the all ages’ show with banisters blocking in designated alcohol zones causing mass amounts of congestion. However this didn’t stop anyone from having a good time as soon as they witnessed the “return of the Mack.”

Appropriately, he opened with the first song off The Heist, “Ten Thousand Hours,” a song about the theory of practicing anything for ten thousand hours will make you a professional in that category. The party doubled in momentum only a few songs later with the smash hit “Thrift Shop,” a song that encouraged many audience members to come dressed in the best of their “granddad’s clothes.” He even borrowed a fur coat from a fan for the performance of the song, “a lot of Canadian squirrels died for this coat” Macklemore joked.

Demonstrated in songs like “Same Love,” a song about same sex marriage, Macklemore’s ability to rap about relevant social issues sets him apart from many of today’s rappers.

A peaceful, easy feeling fell over the audience as they raised their hands and formed a heart above their heads and sang along to the chorus, “I can’t change, even if I tried, even if I wanted to.” This was not the only touching moment of the night; Macklemore described his struggle with drug-abuse, alcoholism and the pressures of staying sober before his song “Starting Over,” where he reaches out, “if I can be an example of getting sober, then I can be an example of starting over.” There is something to be said about an artist in his genre that tries to be encouraging and a good influence to young people as well as an activist for human rights.

Although it didn’t enjoy as much success when it was released months before The Heist, “Can’t Hold Us” is probably still the best-known track among Macklemore fans and the absolute highlight of the night.  For four minutes, all hands were in the air and all feet were off the ground.

An amazing thing about this tour is that Macklemore & Ryan Lewis brought not only their backup band featuring Andrew Joslyn on violin and the very entertaining and energetic Owour Arunga on trumpet, but he also brought along many featured artists to perform with him including Ray Dalton to sing the chorus of “Can’t Hold Us.”

Some set re-arrangements should have been in order as Macklemore & Ryan Lewis performed most of their best songs early in the show. The encore however inspired another huge dance party for “And We Danced,” a satirical song about modern hip hop and “Irish Celebration,” a reference to his Irish heritage (his real name is Ben Haggerty after all) but then ended the night with a five minute speech and introduction to the band, something that should have come much earlier as the audience stood waiting for more songs that never came.

Macklemore is a very inspirational artist with a bright future ahead of him. He expressed his love for Canada and Toronto several times over and said this was the biggest show he’s ever done in the country. The love was definitely mutual and displayed by the passionate Toronto fans.

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