As the stately piano of “BomBom” rippled through the TD Garden, Macklemore stood on a rising platform, back to the crowd as he conducted the musicians on stage before leading into “Ten Thousand Hours,” referring to the amount of practice necessary to master a skill. The rapper and his producer partner Ryan Lewis opened Friday’s concert on a note of triumph, and why shouldn’t they? By their own admission, three years ago they were playing Boston to a crowd of 300, and now they have two Number 1 hits and nearly sold out the Garden.
Clearly that practice paid off, and Macklemore tore through almost two hours with an unceasing exuberance. So did the band, which bounced and hopped continuously around a stage covered in kudzu and ruled on high by Lewis at his laptop. For a lot of hip-hop shows, it’s drums that take the music to the next level; here it was the horns, a trumpet and trombone that pushed party anthem “Can’t Hold Us” deeper and added a mournful lift to LGBT-rights plea “Same Love.”
Macklemore’s joyful energy neither left him during that song nor betrayed the material. It was the same with “Otherside,” where he got worked up like someone who still has sharp memories of how he felt during his dark days of addiction even as he knows they’re long gone.
But most of the songs were upbeat and frisky, from the cracked-saxophone spree of “Thrift Shop” to “And We Danced,” appropriately goofy as it featured Macklemore’s faux-British alter ego Sir Raven Bowie. So were his shaggy-dog stories involving skinny-dipping in the freezing Charles and breakfast with Mariah Carey and Snoop Dogg. Those ramblings informed but never undermined his vocal delivery. A lot of the time, Macklemore simply pushed words out of his mouth as though he’d just realized that he might not make it to the rhyme before hitting the end of the line. He always did.
Big K.R.I.T. delivered a solid opening set, gruff with a breathless delivery. He was followed by Talib Kweli, whose sure-footed rapping was built on more directed verbal jabs.