In their song “Victory Lap,” Seattle-based rap group Macklemore and Ryan Lewis celebrate seemingly overnight success. “From nothing to getting us booked around the country/I know no limits, life can change in an instant,” Macklemore raps gleefully. On April 5, getting booked around the country brought the duo to Sioux Falls, S.D., and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis showed no signs of wear from their Heist World Tour.
As expected, Macklemore (pronounced with the “l” before the “e,” not how the little girl in “Thrift Shop” says it) and Ryan Lewis were preceded by two other hip-hop groups. D Glove and his DJ opened, and they said nothing of substance while on-stage. They effing loved the crowd, commanded us to put our effing hands in the muthaeffing air and rapped about effing women and the grind of trying to make it effing big in hip-hop while going to college. These Sammy Adams wannabes were followed by the more respectable Soul Crate. The Sioux Falls-based duo provided a less radio-friendly underground rap sound while resonating more with the hometown crowd. Songs such as “Sleep Awake” and “Rap Music from the Middle of Nowhere” received good audience participation.
The headliners played for a crowd of around 4,500. Augustana College had booked the Seattle-based duo to play in its basketball gym before they were nationally well-known. The gym, which has less bleacher seating than Northwestern’s Bultman Center, made for an intensely loud atmosphere that reached an apex of clamor when Macklemore came out on stage and also when he asked for a commitment to “go insane” during “Can’t Hold Us.” Cheers reverberated off the cement walls, which provided energy for the crowd as well as Macklemore and his crew.
“The bleachers were shaking, and your stomach was rumbling with the bass,” said sophomore Ally Austin. “But it was awesome.”
Lewis is the obviously quieter tag-team member who focuses mainly on DJ and producer duties. But in concert, Lewis was just as much a performer as Macklemore. He flamboyantly danced throughout the set, and when he spoke into the microphone it was usually in a harsh-voiced yell that came with more force than expected from the scrawny DJ. Ray Dalton, better known as the demi-god voice in “Can’t Hold Us,” provided live vocals to almost half of the set list. Also from Seattle, Dalton was the most overdressed man in the place. He wore khaki slacks and a tucked-in dress shirt. His slow groove while singing only enhanced his classiness. A live trumpet player, Owuor Arunga, was also a part of Macklemore’s crew. Arunga, originally from Kenya, provided solid live instrumentals in every song yet played nuanced improvisations to make the songs more original. It was also his birthday, which meant the last song technically performed at the concert was the gym’s rendition of “Happy Birthday.”
Macklemore is vocal about how the success he is experiencing is thanks to his dedication to the art and the fans who have supported him. Something about Macklemore’s compliments seemed more sincere, more transparent.
He showed his love through various interactions with the crowd both in between and during songs. During “Thrift Shop,” a fan offered his fur coat, which Macklemore wore while performing the song. He said it smelled like a grandpa who had spit his chewing tobacco in the coat’s lining before tossing the coat back to the lucky patron. He leapt out into the crowd while performing “Gold” and continued to rap despite being violated by the females holding him up by his backside.
He bragged about the 1.5-pound bag of Sour Patch Kids he was going to eat after the show and then proceeded to open them on stage and spray half the sack into the crowd. He stood on the hands of the crowd during “Can’t Hold Us,” although it took a while for him to find his balance on a less-than-ideal foundation of arms.
Macklemore also took some time to make serious points. Before performing “Same Love,” he attempted to rally the crowd behind marriage equality, which drew a large amount of noise.
“I think most of those people yelled and screamed for whatever (Macklemore) was saying because it was a concert,” said junior Ethan Raysby. “But I think it’s a good thing he uses his music to make a meaningful point unlike other rap artists. It’s an important issue right now, and I just hope that the people have a strong opinion either way.”
After his final encore, he thanked the crowd one more time and emphasized that his success was due to the people who support independent hip-hop artists such as him.
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis played their show with a sense that they still can’t believe they’ve made it. They elected to play songs from their first release together, the “Vs. EP,” which earned respect from the more seasoned fans. Based on their performance Friday night and growing popularity, neither the ceiling nor state boundaries can hold this high-energy duo.