Macklemore – Spark Arena: May 9, 2024 (13th Floor Concert Review)

MACKLEMORE brought Spark Arena to a frenzy, delighting a massive, hyped-up crowd with a fast-paced run through of material from his latest album BEN, a very new (and political) release and favourites from his back catalogue. Carin Newbould was there on an unforgettable night.

Nick BeebaFollowing a warm-up set by friend and collaborator Nick Beeba, Macklemore took to the stage at the Spark Arena just after 9pm, launching straight into CHANT – the first single from his third studio album, last year’s release BEN.

The Grammy and ARIA award winning rapper has impressive stats, with incredibly over 13.2 billion streams to date. He also puts on an impressive show, starting with shots of New Zealand on the big screen to woo the Kiwi crowd, followed by a light show, singalongs and costume changes – including donning an All Blacks shirt, a tried and tested (if horribly unoriginal) ruse by visiting artistes to get onto our good side. Hey, it works – as do the comedy costume changes for 1984 (headband and denim jacket) and in And We Danced, in which Macklemore followed up a funny intro video to briefly assume the persona of a British 80s rock legend, in a sequined cape, sunglasses and long blonde wig.

MacklemoreIt’s high energy, feelgood and flamboyant, featuring flame plumes, an array of singers, dancers, a band with a trombone and trumpet and DJ decks. Nobody in the crowd seems to mind when Macklemore fires up his super-soaker to give them a dousing. “I’m happy to be on stage and to celebrate this thing we call life together” he says. The audience left happy behind and seemed to be bordering on ecstatic. They readily complied with the instruction to put their “motherfucking hands up”. It was like a Beastie Boys’ gig, without anybody having to fight for their right to party hard.

But the sense of humour was replaced by a sense of indignation for the most anticipated song of the night, a new one – Hind’s Hall, which had been debuted as a live performance at his Wellington gig only the previous night. Strongly pro-Palestinian, the track refers to Columbia University’s recent renaming of Hamilton Hall to honour Hind Rajab, a 6 year old girl killed by Israeli soldiers in Gaza. The single is inspired by student activism and after referring to demonstrators present outside the arena and a lengthy but sincere lecture, there’s no question about where Macklemore stands on this current and contentious issue, as he has pledged to donate all earnings from the track to UNRWA. Palestinian flags fly inside the venue as poignant images fill the screen. It’s a sobering element in an otherwise upbeat and joyous programme, but not the only political message of the night – while Macklemore’s LGBTQ anthem Same Love is now 12 years old, it’s still as relevant and adored as ever. Released at a time when rappers weren’t known for their tolerance or inclusivity, it stood out and alongside interesting melodies, catchy tunes and clever lyrics, garnered Macklemore fans right across the spectrum of age, colour and class.


He’s no one-trick political pony though. Considerably older than most of his audience, this 40 year old father of three – real name Benjamin Hammond Hagerty – clearly knows how to have fun, even now he’s sober and has recovered from the most recent relapses, feeling Glorious again. There are nods to his experiences and trials, accompanied by shedloads of humour in tracks like Downtown and notably in early hit Thrift Shop (who else has mentioned his “big cock” and speculated that “R.Kelly’s sheets smell of piss” in a hit song?). Say what you like, he’s likeable, cheeky and versatile and the Spark crowd lap it all up – from schmaltz to spectacle, anger to Macklemoreanthems.

The audience can’t get enough but all too soon, it’s over. By the time Macklemore comes back for his encore – the marvelous Good Old Days and huge hit Can’t Hold Us – they’re raising the roof with a heartfully grateful singalong, whilst being showered by confetti cannons. He’s wonderfully woke and set on raising awareness, throwing shade on the dubious nonsense perpetuated by other rappers and having a bloody good time in doing so. Macklemore said that his objective is to “spread love” and the Spark crowd certainly felt the love at this gig. Bravo Ben.

Carin Newbould

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Chris Zwaagdyk:



Nick Beeba:



  1. CHANT
  2. Thrift Shop
  3. No Bad Days
  4. White Walls
  5. Same Love
  6. Downtown
  7. Heroes
  8. Hinds Hall
  9. Wing$
  10. Otherside
  11. 1984
  12. And We Danced
  13. Dance Off
  14. Glorious


  1. Good Old Days
  2. Can’t Hold Us