The Ben Tour
Support Acts: CharlieOnAFriday & Tones And I
O2 Academy – Birmingham
11th April 2023
Photo and words by: Dan Rose
Macklemore brought ‘The Ben Tour’ to Birmingham’s O2 Academy on April 11th. On arrival, lines of dedicated fans queued all the way up the street in the pouring rain and torrential wind awaiting to enter the venue and see the Seattle native perform live. The venue was packed with over 3,000 people this evening.
This was an absolute dream for me to photograph one of my favourite musicians perform live. I’ve been a fan of Ben’s for over ten years and first discovered his music on YouTube way back before his famed sophomore album ‘The Heist’ was released. The first Macklemore song I heard was ‘Wing$’ and, since the first listen, I was hooked and have been a fan ever since. A fond memory I have is receiving the deluxe version of his ‘The Heist’ album in the post and it being sent directly from Ben Haggerty (Macklemore) himself.
Prior to Ben taking to the stage later that evening, fans were treated to two incredibly talented support acts, who both have collaborated with Macklemore on his newest album ‘BEN’, and these musicians were definitely capable of headlining shows themselves. The first act was ‘charlieonnafriday’, a fellow Seattle native and, at only 20 years old, what an incredible achievement to already be touring with huge artists such as Macklemore! I first discovered Charlie’s music via TikTok and, as soon as I heard his music, I instantly followed and have been a fan since. Following his journey has been nothing short of amazing so far, and watching him perform live was undeniably fantastic. Within his discography, he has an array of super catchy songs so far and keeps releasing hit after hit, his latest of which is entitled ‘Same Friends’ and has a feature by Lil Tjay. Some of my personal favourites of his include: ‘After Hours’, ‘On My Own’, ‘Colorado Boulder’ and ‘Same Friends.’ The second opening act was Toni Watson, known as ‘Tones And I’, who is an Australian singer-songwriter and producer with a brilliant voice. Tones was accompanied on stage by multiple performers during her set, and she put on one hell of a show which was an absolute pleasure to watch. Toni’s live vocals were absolutely spectacular, and her voice filled the room epically. I heard multiple people say that this artist could headline and sellout the same venue she was supporting that evening. She is best known for her records such as chart-topping single ‘Dance Monkey’ and ‘Fly Away’ from her debut album.
Charlie and Toni’s sets hyped up the crowd to the point where anticipation for the multi-grammy award winning artist Macklemore was through the roof. Prior to Macklemore taking to the stage, visuals in connection with his recently-released album ‘BEN’ were projected on stage with an abundance of personal family photos as part of the graphics. Over a period of an hour, Macklemore performed a set list of fifteen songs which featured songs from his new album as well as classics from his previous albums. Some of my personal favourites that were performed on the night include: ‘Thrift Shop’, ‘Same Love’, ‘Tail Lights’, ‘Can’t Hold Us’ and ‘Wing$.’ During the evening, Ben was accompanied on stage with an extraordinary live band, as well as energetic dancers and they all put on an evening to remember. Ben changed his outfit multiple times, such as wearing his iconic grandpa-esque, thrifted outfit for his well-known hit ‘Thrift Shop’, and this was refreshing to see as normally most artists only wear one outfit throughout their entire set. In between songs, the American rapper frequently spoke to his fans and made a few speeches. One I recall is when he spoke about how Birmingham always goes wild and shows him so much love when he puts on a show there. He mentioned that he had FaceTimed his wife earlier that day, and spoke about his fond memories of touring the UK and that Birmingham was a memorable place. Towards the end of the evening, Ben spoke about how much he loves golf and that he had been thinking of a way to incorporate it into his setlist whilst performing. The idea which came to fruition was that he would use merchandise in place of a golf ball and, during the evening, he used a golf club to swing two pieces of his tour merchandise into the crowd for fans to catch and keep. Macklemore is such a grounded and good-hearted artist, and his fans range from all ages which I could see present in the crowd that night. People of all ages and walks of life came to see him perform live which is a testament to the deeply relatable and resonating music he consistently creates. I always appreciate when artists introduce their band members to the crowd and Ben did exactly that towards the end of the show. Fans initially thought the evening ended with the upbeat song ‘Glorious’ but that wasn’t the case, as an encore of three songs was played, with the final song ‘Can’t Hold Us’ making the crowd go absolutely wild as confetti fell from the venues roof and Macklemore even joined the crowd to crowd surf.
This is an evening I will never forget for as long as I live, and I am so grateful for the music Macklemore creates and the infectiously positive energy he brought to his show.