Robin Thicke and Macklemore take Manhattan at pre-VMA concert
New York got a taste of what’s to come at the MTV Video Music Awards at an intimate Friday night concert featuring two of the summer’s biggest names.
The awards show will be broadcast Sunday live from Brooklyn for the first time, and to promote the event MTV teamed up with Time Warner Cable and Lifebeat, an HIV/AIDS education organization, for Friday’s concert at Terminal 5.
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis kicked off the evening with “Ten Thousand Hours,” the first track from their new album “The Heist,” managing to turn a song about the struggles of achievement into a love letter to the audience.
Not used to a largely female audience by his own admission, Macklemore took a moment to appreciate how “sexy and mature” the crowd was — presumably because we were Robin Thicke fans, he said (Macklemore had been an unnamed “special guest” to the headliner leading up to the show.) He parlaid his admiration of the crowd’s fashion sense (“New York women are the best dressed” and “You know it’s official with a burgundy bowtie”) into his megahit “Thrift Shop.” Happily, the song loses none of its jaunty charm for not being sung in the aisles of a secondhand store.
Before the equality anthem “Same Love,” for which he was joined by Mary Lambert, Macklemore shifted into his real-life persona, Ben Haggerty, for a short but impassioned speech about gay rights: “I believe in tolerance, I believe in compassion, I believe in love.”
Speaking of love, Macklemore proposed keeping the party going for anyone who wanted to join him in his Cadillac after the show. No word on where one can get a Cadillac big enough to accommodate the number of people who cheered his offer.
For his closing number, Macklemore let himself get literally carried away, climbing onto the audience’s hands during the bridge of “Can’t Hold Us.”
Headliner Robin Thicke didn’t keep the crowd waiting for what is arguably the song of the summer (sorry, Daft Punk), coming onstage in his now-trademark three-piece suit and sunglasses with a golden microphone for “Blurred Lines.”Thicke and his surprisingly resilient pompadour performed eight songs, two seated at a piano including “Pretty Little Heart.” Just as it seemed like he’d end with the crowd-pleasing “Shakin’ It for Daddy,” the first strains of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” brought the evening to a heartfelt singalong close.
Despite being very much the men of the moment in the music world, neither performer kept any ironic distance between them and the audience. “I’ve watched the VMAs my whole life — on my parents’ couch,” Macklemore told the crowd. Thicke, meanwhile, mentioned that “Blurred Lines” was his first No. 1 hit in 20 years of making music, “so I’m living proof that don’t ever give up on your dreams.” They seemed just as thrilled to be invited to the show as anyone else there.
Catch both performers and many more on the VMAs, broadcast live from Brooklyn’s Barclays Center beginning at 9 p.m. Sunday on MTV.