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Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' passion fills Theater at Madison Square Garden

Macklemore performs at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago.

Macklemore performs at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago. (Nov. 4, 2013) Credit: Getty Images

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis brought their quest Wednesday night to change the direction of hip-hop to life, filling their live show with unbridled energy and fiery passion.

Rapper Macklemore, born Ben Haggerty, approached the show -- which kicked off a three-night stand at the Theater at Madison Square Garden that runs through Friday night -- with the intensity of a preacher.

He revealed his struggles with drugs and alcohol, and discussed why he went into rehab in 2008. He told a wild story about swimming naked in the Hudson River that was just an elaborate intro for "Thrift Shop," the centerpiece of their argument for an alternative view to mainstream hip-hop.

The decidedly downscale "Thrift Shop" argues with the hip-hop tracks crammed with upscale brands and blinged-out images. While debate about Eminem's intent behind the homophobic slurs on his new album continues, Macklemore's unmistakable support of gay marriage and equal rights in "Same Love" has already hit the Top 10 and won a slew of awards.

However, their lyrics aren't all that sets them apart. Their presentation of the songs is also different, with a horn section and a string section that warmed up every song they played. The musicians' bouncing fed into the show's energy.

But it was the gorgeous performance of "Same Love" with help from singer Mary Lambert that made the biggest impression. "Our words have weight," Macklemore said. "We can use them to uplift other people."

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