The first time was exciting, thrilling, scary, interesting, strange, intense. It was ecstasy. The first time was two years ago. In London, I was sensitive to every sight and every touch. I admired the well-dressed Londoners crowding in the Tube. I noticed the landmark London red found on the iconic double decker buses, telephone booths, and mailboxes. I experimented with European poisons from sweet hard cider to burning absinthe. I partied hours into the grudgy streets of Shoreditch, dancing into the night until 6am.
Last night I felt that London rush revitalizing my body when I screamed for Macklemore and Ryan Lewis at the O2 Brixton Academy. It was completely unbelievable. I’m typically not a fan of rap music, but Macklemore’s music has so much soul into it – and I’m not just saying that because he’s been reaching the radio’s top 40 list.
Thirty minutes into the concert Macklemore spoke about his journey on getting clean from drugs and alcohol since 2008. Before entering rehab, he spent his days, “playing video games, jacking off, and sleeping.” Unlike most rappers, he explained, drugs and alcohol blocked his creative juices. After telling his touching story, he performed “Starting Over,” the first song he wrote out of rehab. Listen to it. Now five years later, here he is performing in one of the trendiest venues in London.
Macklemore was experiencing his first time in London. This was the first stop on his European tour. And like me two years ago, he felt London’s ecstasy for the first time.
I wish I could feel that way again. It’s not my first time in London anymore. Earlier that evening, my friend and I stopped by our favorite pub outside the Angel Tube Station and grabbed some burgers and beers. Two years ago, you could find us here every Thursday night sipping on 2-for-1 cocktails flirting away with young British locals.
“It doesn’t feel the same,” I said. “It’s like we’re back in school. Only we’re not in Philly, we’re in London.” She nodded in agreement. We didn’t have the urge to see Big Ben anymore or take photos in the phone booths or gawk at the Buckingham Palace. At first I thought living in London again would be like living in a big city back home, where I’ll have good times, but not life changing times.
But I was wrong. Sure it won’t be the same. I won’t want to do the same things. But I still feel that London spirit pumping. It’s not exactly the same — it’s a sensation not of novelty, but of intimacy. At the Macklemore concert I realized there is so much of London I haven’t seen. So much of London that is left undiscovered. And many incredible places that even long-time Londoners haven’t been to. I’m lucky that I’m already past the touristy phase. I’ll have time to explore local bars and hidden gems and meet more people that call this city their home.
Squinting into the crowd, Macklemore screamed, “When I go back home and meet my good friend Snoop Dog, I want to be able to look him straight in the eye and say London was the fuckin’ craziest crowd in Europe. Let me hear you London!” The crowd roared for what seemed to be endless. At that point it didn’t matter that I was an American student staying in London temporarily. We were all of London. I am London.
I wanted so bad to jump over second floor balcony to be on the ground reaching out to Macklemore. I wanted to make his first time in London as wonderful as mine.