“There’s a bra on stage!” exclaims Macklemore, holding it aloft. “On the first song? This shit never happens! God, I’m gonna keep this. This is one of my favourite places in Europe. This is one of my favourite bras in Europe…”
The Seattle rapper is a bit of a fixture at Sziget, the seven-day-long festival that takes place on an island in the city of Budapest – he played in 2014, 2017 and is back again this year. And it seems to be a good fit. Something about his playful, holiday camp hip hop just works at festival as fun, relaxed and welcoming as this – watching Macklemore perform is a bit like flicking through a series of memes happening right before your eyes. There’s even a moment where he invites two members of the crowd up on stage for a dance-off in which they have 20 seconds to show their chops. The latter of the two, a young girl, frantically does what Macklemore describes as “every dance move I’ve ever seen” in the short span of time, ending in the splits, and there’s a chance we’ve just witnessed the birth of the new Alex From Glastonbury.
The tone is set at the very beginning as he opens with ‘Ain’t Gonna Die Tonight’, the chunky chorus sung by a moustachioed vocalist who looks like Steven Tyler wearing a Sergeant Pepper costume. Two songs later, Macklemore drops ‘Thrift Shop’, the irresistibly catchy novelty song about the joys of charity shop clobber which, you suspect, will always define him, no matter how early he chucks it away in his set.
But despite all the silliness, there’s serious stuff too. Before the song ‘Same Love’, Macklemore gets political: “The world is a crazy place right now,” he says. “I don’t know how it is in Hungary, but in America right now we are in the middle of a crisis because of our president.” There’s a loud boo from the crowd. “You have people being divided, parents getting taken away from their kids. I believe in love, acceptance and compassion. I’ve got two young daughters man, I couldn’t imagine being separated from my kids because of where my passport says I’m from.” He thumps his chest. ” want to dedicate to this next song to this thing that is right there inside of us, beating, this compass that points us in the right direction.”
It’s a song that chimes with the ethos of Sziget 2019, where the messaging is all about diversity, unity and human rights, with a Pride-themed programme of talks and events at the Magic Mirror spiegeltent.
He ends with ‘City Can’t Hold Us’, which sends the fans absolutely wild. “You have reminded me that this is one of the best crowds in the entire world,” says Macklemore, as his big, fun, silly variety show wraps up.
It’s a tough act to follow for headliners The National, who play to a far smaller crowd, but their festival show is pin sharp after a long summer touring it around the world. It’s a set that, on the one hand, takes itself very seriously, with it’s oh-so-arty black and white visuals, but it’s also an exercise in Matt Berninger spending as much time in the crowd as possible, singing in fans’ faces, posing for selfies and breaking the wall between performer and audience.
Considering they play their song ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’, and in light of what happened in Dayton last week, you might expect them to make a political statement too, but there’s not much chat from Berninger beyond him saying Budapest is “a cool spot”. Like their career trajectory in general, from underdogs to unlikely headlining superstars, The National’s live show is a slow burn, but one that builds and builds via fan-pleasing tracks like ‘Hey Rosey’ and ‘The Day I Die’. Berninger is a front man who performs like a man possessed, even if he looks like a physics lecturer. Macklemore won the crowd, but The National probably had the high ground.
The night continued with a late night set from James Blake at the MasterCard/A38 stage, providing more black & white visuals and more introspective tunes.
The festival continues today with a headline set from Post Malone. Acts who’ve performed since Wednesday include Ed Sheeran, The 1975 and Martin Garrix.
The National Played:
You Had Your Soul With You
Don’t Swallow the Cap
Day I Die
The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness
Where Is Her Head
I Need My Girl