Macklemore, Ryan Lewis kick off Camping Trip with fun, high-energy show in Spokane
Wed., Aug. 24, 2016
I came away from Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ 2013 show at the Spokane Arena vaguely dissatisfied. While I thought the music sounded good, the stage show was rough around the edges. The pacing was off. There was too much emphasis on flash. They played “Can’t Hold Me” twice. And most strange: The lengthy band introductions were done without musical accompaniment. Surely, I thought as it droned on, Ryan Lewis could come up with a beat to play behind that.
Nearly three years later, the Macklemore and Ryan Lewis who took the stage at the Bing Crosby Theater on Tuesday were much more assured, battle tested by an aggressive touring schedule. The stage show itself was minimalist. The backdrop, in keeping with the “Camping Trip” theme was decked out in retro cabin chic, complete with a deer head and bad paintings on the wall, fake trees and a stuffed bear. Rather than a large collection of backing musicians and dancers, the duo was supported only by multi-instrumentalists Owuor Arunga and Josh “Budo” Karp, with help from the rapper Xperience.
“We wanted to do something completely different,” Macklemore told the sold-out crowd of 750. “We wanted to return to the roots of where we came from.”
They wanted, he said, to eliminate the lights and the screens and instead get “face to face” with the fans. It’s a decision that paid off as they launched their eight-city Camping Trip tour with a high-energy set incorporating old fan favorites such as “And We Danced” with the hits from “The Heist” and tracks from their latest album, “This Unruly Mess I’ve Made.”
The two were clearly having fun, and the crowd was there with them. When Spokane City Council member Candace Mumm walked on stage to present Lewis – who was raised in Spokane – with a ceremonial key to the city, the fans ate it up. Later, when Macklemore (whose real name is Ben Haggerty) attempted to toss a chocolate chip cookie to his dad, seated in the balcony, it made for a nice moment.
The duo opened with “10,000 Hours,” off their platinum album “The Heist,” then followed up with “Brad Pitt’s Cousin” and “Buckshot” from “This Unruly Mess.” From there they tackled the big hit: “Thrift Shop” – one of only 10 singles certified Diamond, meaning 10 million copies sold. The crowd went bonkers, and the guys on stage clearly were having a blast.
Other standouts included “Can’t Hold Us,” “Same Love,” “Growing Up,” which Macklemore wrote about the birth of his daughter, and “White Privilege II.” For “Dance Off,” they brought a couple fans on stage, including Malachi Burrow, who had a memorable extra role in the video for “Downtown.” The set concluded with “Irish Celebration” before the band took a short break. And we knew it would be short because one song had obviously been saved for last.
When the opening keyboard notes of “Downtown” came on, it was a fun and fitting end to the show. They made the video in Spokane, after all, with scenes filmed a block away from where they were playing.
My complaints from this evening were minor. The sound mix at times seemed off; this was especially noticeable when Lewis, Budo and Arunga were all playing drums and they drowned out Macklemore’s vocals. And Macklemore, who is earnest in his political beliefs, sometimes would get a bit talky, when instead he could easily let his music speak for him.
That said, the next time Macklemore and Ryan Lewis want to come to Spokane and go camping, I’d be more than happy to join them for some music around the campfire.
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