Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Echo Beach, Toronto ON, June 15
Published Jun 16, 2016If it wasn't the gigantic blue beach ball, the goofy Rod Stewart wig, or the cascade of fireworks, then surely it was the muffin toss. Ben Haggerty has a lot of fun for a sober person.
In the spirit of his snack anthem "Let's Eat," the Seattle rap artist better known as Macklemore hemmed and hawed over whether to scarf down the muffin he nabbed backstage. Passing on the carbs, he decided to pass the carbs on, so he stepped back five paces, took a running start toward the edge of the stage and launched the baked good missile 50 yards into the crowd, to the Echo Beach VIP beer garden, just missing his intended target — the guy in the burgundy sweatshirt — but hitting his friend, who mowed it down. Banana nut, it looked like.
From stage shows to videos to each 16th of his bars, Haggerty takes his craft seriously. He's earnest with his pen, often to brave and beautiful effect ("Kevin," "Wing$," "Same Love") but, like a far-flung muffin, sometimes his intensity can miss the mark ("Light Tunnels") — which is why the fun element of the Macklemore & Ryan Lewis travelling circus is so critical. The creative duo are smart enough to know that in order to have the best dance party in the world, all you have to do is dance.
So Mack can stop the music to address the Orlando shooting for a few minutes and preach the necessity of love, or stall his 100-minute set's momentum with "White Privilege II" — an important think-piece but one better suited to headphones— as long as the medicine is fed with two spoons of sugar.
There is a controlled chaos to the This Unruly Mess I've Made Tour, named after Mack and Ryan's sophomore LP, which arrived four long years after his 2012 pop breakthrough. (Did their prolonged recording break prevent the concert, while well attended, from selling out? Perhaps.) A baker's dozen of support players — trumpeters, pianists, singers, drummers and the Macklorette dancers — ran on and off stage, but the main backing tracks were pre-recorded, as were the excellent splashes of video catered to fit the mood of each of the 18 songs performed in full.
The vocals and beats both cut clean through the warm early summer air with CD clarity, and the 32-year-old white dad from America's grunge capital can spit. Haggerty's a showman: he pauses to tell a joke or cute anecdote about his baby daughter, Sloane; leaps off speakers and stage-dives; pulls on a comically chunky fur coat for "Thrift Shop"; hosts a dance-off between two rather fit fans; and tags up a blank canvas with a Magic Marker, Win, Lose or Draw–style, during graffiti ode "Buckshot."
The constant Tim Hortons references and claims that Toronto is "the best crowd in North America," however, slipped into pandering. Was it twice or three times that he told us his wife holds dual citizenship?
Thing is, Mack can still wow without some of the try-hard theatrics. You can win a Grammy without apologizing. Songs like "Can't Hold Us," "St. Ides" and terrific deep cut "Shades" soared on their own merit.
As did the no-brainer Broadway knockout finale, "Downtown," which got blessed by a sudden and welcome cameo from singer Eric Nally — tight pink pants, moustache, quirky dance steps and all.