Macklemore may well have jinxed it.
After blasting through 2017 song “Ain’t Gonna Die Tonight” to open his show with Kesha at PNC Music Pavilion on Wednesday night, the 35-year-old rapper (née Ben Haggerty) welcomed 15,000 screaming fans with a figurative middle finger pointed at Mother Nature.
“So I heard there’s supposed to be lightning and rain tonight,” Macklemore said, smirking, to a crowd that already was damp from a pre-show downpour. “I heard it over a radio, you know — for a second, there was, like, a question mark, of ‘Is there still gonna be a show tonight? Is there still gonna be a show? There’s lightning, and there’s rain.’
“And I remember, when I was growing up, I had a baseball game one time. I was with my grandfather ... and it was a big game. I said, ‘Gramps, is there gonna be a (game) tonight? It’s supposed to be lightning and thunder.’ He looked me in the eyes, and said, ‘Ben, you are the lightning. You are the thunder.’ Tonight, Charlotte, we are the rainstorm. It cannot hold us back. We came here tonight to have a celebration in the summertime. We don’t give a (expletive) about the weather!”
But 45 minutes later, right after he finished a breathless rendition of party-starter “Can’t Hold Us” — which was to set up his planned two-song encore — Macklemore was almost certainly giving a (expletive) about the weather.
There was lightning, there was thunder, there was heavy rain, and suddenly, there was an announcement over the venue’s loudspeaker — that anyone on the lawn should seek shelter. The “weather situation,” the announcer said, was “on top of us,” but it was supposed to move through in 30 minutes and the show would resume and be completed “in its entirety.”
Thirty minutes turned into 45, during which time the tour called an audible and began dismantling the eight fake palm trees and the fake-ivy-covered risers and tables and speaker boxes that were part of Macklemore’s show. “Downtown” and “Glorious” were listed as the last two songs on the set list posted backstage, but he never got to perform them.
Instead, after the storm rolled through and action resumed, Kesha emerged from a giant silver UFO planted in the middle of the stage and slow-rapped the first verse of “Tik Tok” while slinking down the steps, before launching into feminist pop anthem “Woman.”
The party was back on, with the sometimes-lewd, often-crude, always-glitter-obsessed pop star grinning and dancing with double-barreled middle fingers raised as she sang the chorus: “I’m a (expletive) woman, baby, alright / I don’t need a man to be holding me too tight / I’m a (expletive) woman, baby, that’s right / I’m just having fun with my ladies here tonight...”
But any hope of the show actually being completed “in its entirety” would soon be dashed, as the storms that Macklemore proclaimed couldn’t hold them back wound up hamstringing Kesha, too.
Her set list, also seen backstage, was supposed to include defiant ballad “Bastards” and a cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene,” which would have given Kesha (a Nashville native) a chance to flex her country muscles.
And though she didn’t expressly tell the crowd she was eliminating songs on the fly, she alluded to it. Eight songs in, the 31-year-old singer announced: “Here’s the deal, y’all. We are ripping through songs like a bunch of (expletive), because there was just a lightning storm, and there’s one coming. So we’re trying to give you as many bangers as we possibly can. So instead of me just like blabbering nonsense, I’m just gonna throw songs at y’all.”
Despite the abbreviated run time, what Macklemore and Kesha were able to give their fans was mostly very satisfying.
Macklemore — who has four albums to his name (two with Ryan Lewis) but a limited number of hits — leaned on his strengths as an energetic showman and an affable emcee. Some of his stories could have used some editing (particularly of the one about the Uber driver), but he sprinkled in a few highly entertaining stunts.
One saw him pulling a Willy Wonka (right before he rapped his 2017 song of the same name) by revealing that two “golden tickets” had been placed randomly under two seats inside the venue; the deliriously excited winners got to chill out on a $39 Target air mattress during “Willy Wonka,” though they spent more time gawking into their phones than they did beholding the famous rapper bouncing around 10 feet away from them.
During another break between songs, Macklemore picked two fans out of the audience for a dance-off. The first contestant didn’t excite the crowd much, but the second — a guy in a hat, T-shirt, shorts and Adidas sandals — sent it into a frenzy by dropping down into the worm, then jumping up to do the goofy versions of the shoot and floss dances.
“Oh, my God,” the rapper said, shaking his head, as the guy left the stage. “I’m so inspired right now. I’m so inspired. After the show, I’m gonna go backstage, I’m gonna get in front of the mirror, and I’m gonna learn how to do (what he did).”
Kesha, meanwhile, focused more on the music than banter with the crowd while preserving most of the crass and sass of a typical Kesha concert.
After her second song (“Blah Blah Blah”), for instance, she stripped off a pair of white chaps she’d been wearing while cracking: “I personally don’t think my a-- is out quite enough yet.” After enthusiastically dancing through “Die Young,” she said to no one in particular in the pit area: “I need to get some boob sweat on this towel and give it to you.” Later, at her request, fans tossed a few laundry loads worth of clothing onto the stage during “Take It Off,” including several bras that wound up hanging off of her mic stand and off of the ends of her and her guitarists’ guitars.
Oh, and there was confetti. And streamers. And glitter. And rainbows.
Kesha in fact noted all the rainbow flags and rainbow hats and rainbow T-shirts in the crowd, and at one point — before empowerment anthem “We R Who We R” — gave an explicit shout-out to her LGBTQ fans.
Along with their sentimental live duet of “Good Old Days,” this overt message of acceptance was the most common thread weaving together Kesha’s and Macklemore’s partnership on this tour.
“Regardless of the color of your skin, regardless of your sexual orientation, regardless of the bathroom that you choose to you, regardless of where your passport says that you are from, or your documents say that you were born, you are welcome here tonight at this show and all shows in the future, period,” Macklemore had told the roaring crowd earlier in the evening, as he set up his own empowerment anthem, “Same Love.” “We came here to celebrate diversity, not be afraid of it. At the end of the day, no amount of fear and no amount of hatred can ever overpower love.”
At the end of the night, however, a fair amount of inclement weather proved it can overpower a show.
After Kesha exorcised her personal demons with an arresting rendition of the haunting ballad “Praying,” which reduced her and at least a few of her fans to tears, the singer said she’d been told that no more lightning was expected. “I was speeding through (expletive), so now I can (expletive) ramble on for a minute. And that’s my favorite thing to do.”
She proceeded to thank her fans for being there and for staying through the rain, two or three different times, and then told everyone how much she loved them, four or five different ways.
Unfortunately, no amount of rambling was going to bring back Macklemore to do “Downtown” and “Glorious,” nor would it help her find a way to squeeze “Bastards” and “Jolene” back into her own set.
So she put her happy face on to perform the song that made her famous nine years ago — “Tik Tok” — to which thousands of fans sang along: “Don’t stop, make it pop / DJ, blow my speakers up / Tonight, I’m-a fight / Till we see the sunlight / Tick-tock on the clock / But the party don’t stop, no...”
Then, as confetti poured down from the ceiling of the pavilion and a light rain started to fall again on those not under the roof, the party did stop — at 10:38 p.m., more than 15 minutes before it was supposed to.
Macklemore’s set list
1. “Ain’t Gonna Die Tonight”
2. “Thrift Shop”
3. “White Walls”
4. “Same Love”
6. “Willy Wonka”
7. “And We Danced”
8. “Can’t Hold Us”
Kesha’s set list
2. “Blah Blah Blah”
3. “We R Who We R”
4. “Good Old Days”(with Macklemore)
6. “Die Young”
7. “Your Love Is My Drug”
8. “Take It Off”
11. “Tik Tok”