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Concert Reviews:
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis pound positivity at The Palace

@graffonmusic, Facebook.com/Gary Graff on Music

Posted: Sunday, November 3, 2013

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AUBURN HILLS -- Most performers would look out at a crowd of just 6,500 at the Palace and consider it paltry and disappointing.

Not Macklemore.

On Saturday night, Nov. 3, the Seattle rapper -- who hit commercial pay dirt with partner Ryan Lewis on their platinum 2012 album "The Heist" and are up for a field-leading six American Music Awards -- noted that just 11 months earlier the duo had played at Saint Andrews Hall to an audience more than six times smaller. So this, he figured, was positive progress.

"It's so overwhelmingly beautiful the last year has happened for us the way it has," Macklemore (real name Ben Haggerty) said. And after playing the night before to an impassive Pearl Jam crowd at a festival in New Orleans, he told the exuberant and loud Palace faithful that Saturday's show "is like Christmas for us."

Macklemore & Lewis certainly came ready for the big time on Saturday, following crisp opening sets by Talib Kweli and Big K.R.I.T. with a flashy 100-minute show bolstered by pyrotechnics, extensive video production, three dancers, three singers and four live musicians, including two string players who helped Macklemore & Lewis achieve a rich sonic depth for the 14 songs. And Macklemore proved himself a world-class arena frontman, prowling the tri-level stage -- including five ramps that jutted closer to the Palace crowd -- and changing outfits four times, though he spent most of the night wearing Greg Monroe's No. 10 Pistons jersey.

The genuinely gracious MC also had plenty to say outside of the songs, and he kept most of that on a positive tip, too. He preceded "Starting Over" with a long story about perils of substance abuse and the benefits of being sober, and introduced the tolerance anthem "Same Love" with his a discourse on the state of Civil Rights movement in America, concluding that "we are evolving as a society." Before "Thrift Shop," meanwhile, he wove an amusing and impressively straight-faced tale about skinnydipping in Lake Michigan on Saturday morning, only to have his clothes stolen and encountering a 90-something woman who helped him out.

Macklemore & Lewis had no trouble keeping the youthful Palace crowd bouncing to favorites such as "White Walls," "Wing$" and an encore of "And We Danced," "Irish Celebration" and a reprise of "Can't Hold Us." And when the MC left the stage premising that "I'll see you soon," he could feel confident that the vast majority of those in the house would be back, and probably bring a few friends to help fill the place up next time.

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