Macklemore keeps it light during storm-shortened State Fair show

CHRIS RIEMENSCHNEIDER , Star Tribune | Updated 9/3/2013

REVIEW: Seattle-area rapper championed equality, single "Can’t Hold Us" on Saturday.

Just like it says in his second of two chart-topping singles, a ceiling couldn’t hold the number of fans who turned out to see suddenly ubiquitous rapper Macklemore at the State Fair Saturday.

Especially when all 16,259 of them were told to seek shelter when lightning lit up the sky over the grandstand.

The Seattle-area rapper and his DJ/producer partner, Ryan Lewis, were left with an hour to perform after an hourlong delay in the concert, which forced fans to evacuate into the bowels of the grandstand. Never have so many teenagers seemed so interested in Sleep Number beds and Birdee Golf games, among other vendors housed inside.

Despite the crunched time, the headlining hip-hop duo still managed to squeeze in their feel-good hit “Can’t Hold Us” twice. That’s right: twice. Seemingly a sign of how eager Macklemore was to please his newly attained, fun-seeking young fans, he dropped in his most recent hit four songs into the show, then delivered it again for a finale.

It was even more fun the second time, but come on.

In the new Rolling Stone cover story on him, the 30-year-old Macklemore (Ben Haggerty) sounded leery about being a one-hit novelty act. And yet he took a discernibly novel, light approach to Saturday’s concert. He made for suitably grand entertainment amid all the fair’s other amusements, yes, but he did very little to sell the more substantive side of his music.

Of course, there’s an unabashed ridiculousness in his other big hit, “Thrift Shop.” He delivered the shopper’s-delight anthem right away as the show’s second song, perhaps out of pity for fans who came dressed in gaudy, uncomfortable vintage clothing (they had no reason to keep it on after that).

Things got even sillier from there. The Cadillac-invoking “White Walls” came off like a cartoony, pointless rap song that a Disney act might record. For “And We Danced,” Macklemore inexplicably wore a mullet wig and cape and donned a fake, buffoonish accent. I’d compare it to “Weird Al” Yankovic if only his fans knew who that is.

Macklemore goofed around a lot between songs, too, hosting a Fruit by the Foot eating contest on stage (comic Chelsea Handler sent him a box of the stuff after he appeared on her E! talk show). He also turned one poor fan’s giant, stuffed, midway-won tiger into a crowd surfer. This was all in good fun, and Macklemore certainly proved a charming personality and lively ringleader, as he stage-dived (twice) and danced around his three backup dancers and two-piece horn section.

Musically, though, Saturday’s set was a far cry from the powerful one he delivered locally at the Soundset hip-hop festival in 2012. There, he talked openly about his addiction problems and served far meatier songs.

The one glaring exception to Saturday’s fluff was “Same Love,” his much-discussed single that denounces homophobia and preaches equality for same-sex couples — which flies in the face of a lot of other rap songs and fit the Minnesota State Fair circa 2013 in a whole other kind of way.

“I was excited to hear that here in Minnesota, equality prevailed,” he said before the song, referring to the state’s recent legalization of same-sex marriage. Advocates of the law would have cheered the sight of 16,000 young fans singing and clapping proudly to the song.

It certainly was a heavy moment. Maybe Macklemore could use his newfound weight with mainstream fans to get behind more than just that one serious matter, though.

Here's the setlist:

Ten Thousand Hours  /  Thrift Shop  /  Same Love  /  Can’t Hold Us  /  White Walls  /  Wing$  /  And We Danced  /  Irish Celebration  /  Can’t Hold Us (second time)