I believe music has the power to bring people together and inspire positive change. On October 6 and 7, as Macklemore took the stage at the Roseland Theater in front of 1,400 fans of various ages, races and genders, the validity of this belief became undeniable.
Macklemore released his second solo studio album, Gemini, on September 22—his first project without collaborator Ryan Lewis since the two amicable split this summer. Featuring hip-hop heavyweights Offset and Lil Yachty as well as pop star Kesha, the independent record out of Seattle took the #1 spot on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and Top Rap Albums charts and hit #2 overall.
Kicking off his coast-to-coast Gemini tour in Portland with two consecutive sold-out nights, the room exploded with roaring cheers whenever Macklemore started a song, ended a song, said the word “Portland,” or even when he just stood there in the stage lights saying nothing at all. As I left the second night feeling motivated to change the world, I wondered how one man, in one night, could create such palpable positivity and hope for 1,400 people.
His Team. XPerience opened with rhythmic hip-hop, catchy hooks and entertaining banter that made fans feel included from the beginning. Travis Thompson stepped on stage next. While his debut mixtape dropped in August 2016, his charismatic nature and easeful stage presence made up for any lack of experience. These two weren’t just performers before the main act, though; they packed flawless beats and inspiring lyrics that brought the crowd’s energy up to their level and put performers and fans on the same page for the rest of the night. These performers were Macklemore’s teammates with a shared mission, as were his backup singers and musicians, who he paid incredible respect and reverence to at the beginning of the encore.
Humility and Inclusivity. “You. You. You did real good! You! You. Yeah, you!” About 75 minutes into the show, as the crowd relentlessly cheered for Macklemore, he looked individual fans in the eye and cheered right back at them. He recognized how hard chasing your dreams can be, reflecting on the 12-person Satyricon crowd he performed for at his first Portland show years ago. He shouted out a person in the crowd who was at the tragic Vegas Route 91 Harvest festival just a week before, and thanked everyone just for leaving their house that night. Macklemore’s gratitude and humble nature proved that he is more than a performer: He is a leader who recognizes the value that each individual brings.
Fearless Lyrics. As every mouth in the room sang “Same Love” and “Glorious,” it was evident that Macklemore wasn’t just performing catchy tunes. He was rapping our shared frustrations about civil rights and equality, which many of us are afraid to speak about for ourselves. He broke the silence for us so we could sing along with a renewed recognition that we’re not alone. While “Fuck Donald Trump” shined on the screen behind him, Macklemore sang, “I got an eagle on my arm, I'm a patriot. I’ma stay right here, I ain't livin' in fear with my people who are Muslims, Mexican and queer.” He wasn’t rapping to us, he was speaking on behalf of us.
Macklemore didn’t create a palpable positivity all on his own—he had a team who carved out space for fans to celebrate a shared awareness: “It's human rights for everybody, there is no difference.” See for yourself below. —Skylor Powell