January 26th, 2010
Photos by Blush Photo
In theory, last Thursday’s show was all about Mad Rad‘s return to Capitol Hill. The bad boys back on the beat. The party-rappers keepin’ it clean on the scene instead of bein’ mean. Macklemore, while exhibiting his own solid footing of late with a magnificent EP (Vs.) cut with beatmaker Ryan Lewis, was simply a tantalizing opening act. A warm up to the big up.
Turns out Macklemore had something else in mind. And not maliciously or vigilantly, of course; the homegrown hero was simply going to go out, put on a euphoric performance in front of a packed crowd, and let fate run its course. That is to say, Macklemore absolutely slayed. And that’s not to imply Mad Rad tanked; quite the opposite. I just thought Macklemore’s set was stronger. His songs were heavier, fleshier and given to more purpose. His cadence was unmistakable. Could be that I was wowed by never having seen him before, or it could be that he’s a native Capitol Hiller, like myself, and his self-aware, reminiscent style resonated clearly on this faux-reunion night. Look, I’m a fan of Mad Rad—”My Product”, “Superdope” and “Crack the Blunt” are some of the illest cuts to come out of Seattle the past few years—but their feasting ways and high wattage displays are a whole other ballgame. I’m not sure I was sold on some of the guys’ new tunes.
But one of the ideal aspects of Seattle’s incredible palette of hip-hop and rap, amidst aesthetic differences, is the seemingly high level of kinship amongst the plethora of boxers in the local ring. These guys are preposterously fraternal; sure they’d like to duke it out a bit, but playfully, with gloves and a smile. Macklemore almost immediately brought out his step cousin to assist in “Crew Cuts”, talkin’ ’bout haircuts, Sam Goody, tether ball and Labyrinth. Chris Mansfield, aka Fences, played his guitar for 3 or 4 songs, beginning with “Otherside”, the Red Hot Chili Peppers-sampled story of the MC’s recent drug addiction. Pearl Dragon and Sir Thomas Gray of Champagne Champagne joined them for the Arcade Fire-sampled “Kings” and unflinchingly brought the house down (especially with that organ from “My Body Is A Cage”…oh man). Cripes, Mack even put on a wig and fur coat for the bouncy “Life is Cinema”.
“The Town” is an homage’s homage and provided my favorite line of the night: “the skyline is etched in my veins / you can never put that out no matter how hard it rains.” He closed with “Irish Celebration”, another ode to his past in which Lewis uses Beirut’s “Scenic World” to set the scene. A huge Irish flag got run around the stage like it was the 12th Man at Qwest Field and the live trumpeter and violinist—first time I’d seen that at a hip hop show—were especially on point. In the end, Mad Rad eventually re-elevated the party, and even brought Rik Rude out for a couple Fresh Espresso jams (man, Smoov REALLY loves that vocoder). I think I was just surprised by how good Macklemore was.