Shiny suits, shimmery leggings and fur vests were out in full force in Ackerman Union on Friday night. But the mass of Bruins weren’t trying to recreate John Travolta’s “Saturday Night Fever” or attending a Jazzercise convention – they were waiting for Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.
When the Cultural Affairs Commission and the Campus Events Commission announced they would be hosting a concert with the Seattle-based rapper and DJ/producer duo, high anticipation immediately hit campus. The story of the 700-plus students who camped out in below-50-degree weather to obtain the free tickets, some for two days straight, is already legendary.
As Missy Elliott once asked, “Is it worth it?”
It totally was.
Energy was high among the crowd even before students were led into Ackerman’s Grand Ballroom. Some fans had started lining up before 5 p.m. for the 8 p.m. concert, wanting to secure a front and center view. But with warmer weather and excited discussions of which songs Macklemore would play, the mood was hardly bleak.
The already pumped crowd was warmed up by two student DJs, their energy building with every drop, singing along to Kanye West’s “Clique” and a jazzy lounge version of Kendrick Lamar’s “Swimming Pools.”
But nothing could beat the kind of energy that resonated the minute Macklemore came on stage, opening with his “Make the Money” intro before segueing into “Ten Thousand Hours.” The crowd happily sang along to the chorus: “Ten thousand hours felt like ten thousand hands/ Ten thousand hands, they carry me.”
Surprising everyone, Macklemore introduced “Thrift Shop” early into his set. Building the anticipation for his biggest hit, he announced to the crowd that not only was this his first time performing in 2013, it was his first time performing with the number one record in the nation.
With Wanz making a special appearance, the rapper did justice to his biggest song. And it was clear everyone in the crowd knew all the words, happily poppin’ the tags from many outfits that were inspired by the track’s popular music video.
The front of the auditorium was packed tight with bodies sweating and pushing at each other as everyone tried to get the best view – one guy even passed out, getting right back up and throwing his hands in the air, unfazed.
The crowd significantly chilled out after “Thrift Shop” was played and Macklemore segued into a set list that mixed songs from his new album “The Heist” with older tracks from his 2010 EP “VS. Redux” that longtime fans could appreciate, such as “Otherside” and “Crew Cuts.”
Macklemore took a political turn as he introduced his song “Same Love.”
The rapper, who has teased that he will run for mayor of his hometown in 2025, introduced the song by announcing that Washington had passed Referendum 74, prompting one excited concertgoer to shout, “Yeah, marijuana!” When Macklemore continued to explain the referendum that legalized same-sex marriage, the same student responded, “That’s chill, too.”
The rapper went on to call the victory a step in the right direction for humanity, and said it demonstrated a new way of expressing compassion for people. The crowd, many of them putting their arms around friends’ shoulders, happily sang along to the empowering lyrics: “And I can’t change/ Even if I tried/ Even if I wanted to.”
Macklemore got the crowd going again with the high-energy “Can’t Hold Us,” which had everyone jumping, and then thanked UCLA for selling the place out, assuring the crowd they had set the bar for every college in the country.
As the set neared its end, it was clear Macklemore was as amped as the crowd. In one moment he stood center stage, the spotlight shining straight down on him, and lifted both hands in the air, clearly soaking up a moment that had him at the top of the charts and surrounded by more than 1,000 students.
He happily obliged to pleas for “one more song!” and played his famous track “And We Danced,” which became the go-to lyrics for Instagram captions and Facebook statuses, as people claimed, “And we danced/ And we cried/ And we laughed/ And had a really, really, really good time.”
In keeping akin to a set list that was hardly predictable, Macklemore ended with “VS. Redux” track “Irish Celebration,” capping off the little-over-an-hour concert on a high note.
He kept the good spirit going as he finished by introducing Lewis, joking that the ladies called him raspberry delight, and reminding the crowd that that they had been incredible that night.
Giving fans both old and new a night full of hits, hidden favorites and an energy that matched their own, Macklemore and Lewis definitely worked it.
Email Konstantinides at [email protected].