Macklemore & Ryan Lewis House of Blues Bronze Peacock Room November 3, 2012
When he was in grade school, Seattle-born rapper Ben "Macklemore" Haggerty thought he was gay. He was artistic, kept his room tidy, and his uncle was openly homosexual, so he did what any ten-year-old boy would do: He freaked out and ran crying to his mom, who made it all better.
He's not gay, mind you, but this is how listeners are launched into "Same Love," a piano-led ballad off his and producer Ryan Lewis' new album, The Heist. Macklemore goes on to say that the civil-rights movement supporting gay marriage is the same kind of fight that has led to walkouts and sit-ins in the past and that, until his uncles can legally marry, he won't stop supporting their cause.
Macklemore has a knack for discussing taboo subjects and adding his own personal touch.
Saturday night, a few hundred eager Houstonians crowded the stage and kept the floor shaking for his 90-minute set at the House of Blues' Bronze Peacock. Fans chanted choruses and kept the man of the hour smiling all night. Addressing the crowd, Macklemore said that although the Peacock was one of the smallest venues they had performed in on their current tour, it was also the loudest.
He went on to say that he would take a small, energetic crowd over a larger, less enthusiastic one any day.
Macklemore offers a fresh perspective to a genre that has been growing stale. Instead of setting his sights on Cadillacs and gold chains (though both receive their due mentions) and demonstrating an "Imma'-do-me" attitude, he implores his fans to stay away from drugs, love one another, question the importance of their Nikes and, in true rapper form, "make the money, don't let the money make you."
On his first visit through Houston, Macklemore kept the energy at a high point from the moment he came onstage to the second he walked off, with a near-breathless recital of almost every song off The Heist, as well as a few hits that initially put him on the blogosphere's radar, notably "Otherside" and "And We Danced."
While "Otherside" may not be a direct reference to Houston, it surely resonates with quite a few locals. The song chronicles Macklemore's addiction to promenthazine cough syrup and begins with a news clip reporting beloved UGK rapper Pimp C's death five years ago, as the Red Hot Chili Peppers song of the same name plays in the background.
But just a few songs later, "Starting Over" told the story of Macklemore's relapse, the two Styrofoam cups he sipped from after more than three years of sobriety, and the pain on his dad's face when the rapper confessed. Macklemore worried that coming clean would tarnish his reputation, mark him as a failure to everyone who looked up to him as an inspiration and give his critics ammo to call him a fake.
But he would "rather live telling the truth and be judged for my mistakes than falsely held up, given props, loved and praised," he said.
So just like everything else in his life, he wrote it down, and shares it with his fans. "Life is a beautiful struggle, and I record it," he says. "And I hope it helps you maneuver through yours." Judging by the faces in the crowd, he's already positively affected quite a few lives in our city.
Emotions run high in his music, which can make it a little heavy for your day-to-day soundtrack. But for as serious as the subject matter may be at times, it sure made a whole lot of people happy Saturday night.
And if you're looking for something just a little more light-hearted, "Thrift Shop" is an irresistibly catchy tune than may cause you to make an impromptu trip to Goodwill. If you go, only take $20.
Personal Bias: A friend introduced me to Macklemore only two weeks ago. Great timing.
The Crowd/Overheard In the Crowd: Light-skinned Hispanic guy: "I think I'm the darkest person here."
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Random Notebook Dump: Anyone know how this guy chose his name? Macklemore is an interesting choice.