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Concert Reviews:
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis make welcome return to the Fox Theatre the Fox theatre
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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DETROIT -- Absence has clearly made the hearts of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis fans grow fonder.

As if they ever strayed in the first place.

The Seattle hip-hop duo has, as MC Macklemore (nee Ben Haggerty) told the crowd Tuesday night, Feb. 2, at Detroit's Fox Theatre, spent the past year and a half recording its sophomore album -- "The Unruly Mess I've Made," which drops Feb. 26. That has, out of necessity, kept the two off the road, which made Tuesday's tight, 90-minute show a "comeback" of sorts.

But the Fox fans were are exuberant as those at Macklemore & Lewis' last metro area stop, Nov. 3, 2014, at the Palace of Auburn Hills. And they were rewarded with an enormously entertaining and action-packed show that was so carefully choreographed that it never felt contrived nor disingenuous and was as smartly executed as anything Macklemore & Lewis have created in the studio.

Simply put, the duo gets it. The 14-song set deftly blended hip-hop attitude with high-octane rave sensibility and just enough pop/rock spectacle to be if not all things to all people then a lot of things to most. A 15-piece ensemble -- including backup singers, a horn section, a pianist and a fluid breakdance trio -- fortified the presentation, along with a production that featured three large video screens at the rear of the stage, some pyrotechnics and occasional streamers and confetti -- the latter in two blasts during a rowdy encore of "Irish Celebration."

Eric Nally of Cincinnati's Foxy Shazam was part of the troupe, too, providing guest vocals on Macklemore & Lewis' recent single "Downtown."

Macklemore is a rapper first and foremost -- and one of great consciousness as evidenced by the human rights anthem "Same Love" and his sobriety message in "Otherside" -- but he also understands the value of a good performance. So on Tuesday he glided around the stage with both comfort and confidence, blending poignant observations with wisecracks. For "And We Danced" he adopting a wigged, glam-rock alter ego, after which he declared that, "If it was not for (the late) David Bowie, there would be no Macklemore & Ryan Lewis as you know it."

And he was full of gushing praise for Detroit, complimenting its cars, music and architecture -- referring to the Fox, reverently, as "this old-ass historic building."

It was a testament to the duo's impact, too, that it was able to lace its two biggest hits, "Thrift Shop" and "Same Love," into the first half hour of the show withou losing any momentum. The Fox crowd was just as happy, and familiar, with deeper fare such as "Crew Cuts," "Arrows, "Kevin," "White Walls" and the solemn "St. Ives," and it went balcony-shaking mental during the "Can't Hold Us" finale.

As Macklemore, Lewis and company took their bows, the MC reminded the crowd about the upcoming album, promising that "I cannot wait to come back to Detroit and play it for you guys." He could rest assured that the feeling was mutual.



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