On Monday, November 11 at 6:30 p.m., approximately 9,500 students ditched their typical weekday responsibilities and gathered in the Carrier Dome for an electrifying night of spitting, shouting, and swagger courtesy of some of the hardest-working names in today’s rap game.
Kicking off the night was up-and-comer Big K.R.I.T., who faced the challenge of performing at a strange time slot (7:30 to 8 p.m.) before an audience who largely had not heard of him. The fresh-faced emcee took the challenge head-on, rapping dangerously fast over basic beats so his sharp tongue and raw talent shined center stage. Unfortunately, the crowd wasn’t biting the bait much, even as K.R.I.T. called upon the audience time and time again to clap and jump to tracks like the anthemic “Rotation,” the taunting “I Got This” and “REM,” a slowed-down track about goals and dreams.
Following K.R.I.T. was veteran rapper Talib Kweli, who was received more favorably by the crowd and is known for incorporating new sounds and fusions into his rapping style. The first four tracks, including “Come Here” and “Move Somethin’,” were performed with the ease and comfort of any professional, as Kweli quickly proved himself to be. This made it all the more interesting when the rapper pulled unexpected newcomer Res onto the stage. Res, a rapper-singer mix who held her own on stage beside Kweli, performed “Dreams” off of her EP Refried Mac. Res and Kweli performed a couple of songs together before they retreated off stage their separate ways, to clear the way for headliner Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.
For the agonizing thirty-five minutes between the end of Kweli’s set and the beginnings of “BomBom,” the headliner’s intro track, the already-restless crowd began moaning and shifting in anticipation. However, nobody left, and from the moment Ryan Lewis and Macklemore stepped on stage right up to the final goodbyes, not a soul in the crowd had a second to even consider departing. That is how magnetizing and electrifying this performance was – a straight hour and thirty minutes of energy and enthrallment in which the entire crowd sat in the palm of a single emcee, his energetic band, and an enthusiastic producer behind a switchboard.
Opening with “Ten Thousand Hours” and a defiant foam finger thrust into the air, Macklemore led the crowd not only on a journey through the hottest rap duo’s gold-rated album The Heist, but through older tracks from Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ first studio album, The VS Redux EP. In between tracks, the rapper humored the crowd with wisecracks and anecdotes, from remarking about students living in the Sheraton Hotel to sharing a (hopefully not fictional) story about skinny-dipping in the mercury-filled Onondaga Lake, only to have his clothes stolen and to receive help from an old woman who brought him to, naturally, a thrift shop.
While older cuts like the addicting “Life is Cinema” and the gleefully silly “And We Danced” excited the crowd, it was newer cuts that truly brought the audience to a roar. And no roar was louder than Mary Lambert’s entrance to the stage for “Same Love”, and rightfully so—the singer performed with a mystifying mix of gusto and grace that left the entire dome open-mouthed.
Lambert wasn’t the only performer that shone in the spotlight—“Thrift Shop” hook-provider Wanz, “Can’t Hold Us” crooner Ray Dalton and charismatic trumpeter Owuar Arunga also presented major contributions. Interestingly, the other half of the headlining duo stayed relatively in the background behind his table, aside from hyping up the crowd and occasionally ascending onto the speakers.
Even with their distance onstage, however, one can easily observe the ease at which Macklemore and Ryan Lewis function together. No way could one be without the other, as proved by both the nostalgic audio tracks accompanying “My Oh My” and the consumerism-commenting “Wings,” which also relied on the talented cellist and violinist who were permanent on-stage features during the performance.
Aside from his invaluable bandmates, Macklemore definitely had several chances to prove his own worth. And prove it he did, most notably with his brand-new freestyle meshed with hit “Make the Money.” The emcee’s infectious energy never slowed a beat, from two rousing performances of “Can’t Hold Us” to “White Walls,” his latest single that prompted hilarious dance moves paired with flawlessly quick raps proclaiming the rapper’s love for Cadillac.
Ninety minutes were gone, it seemed, before the crowd could even take a breath. Typically, the emcee is known to end his set with “Irish Celebration,” but for some reason (not that we’re asking) he remained onstage and chose a reprise of “Can’t Hold Us” to close out the Carrier Dome. And close it out they did—a satisfying end to an unforgettable experience.