Having caught Atmosphere at their last Australian tour, this show was always going to be a hard one to top, when you consider in 2009 it was Brother Ali and Atmosphere billed as performing together and the supporting act was underground legend Murs, who is the second half of Slugs side project Felt. Fast forward three years from one of the best live hip-hop shows I’ve seen, I found myself at the Hifi Bar on a Thursday night with a fairly packed house.
This time they had brought out fellow Rhymesayer Californian rapper and producer Evidence, probably best known from his involvement in Dilated Peoples and co-production credit and subsequent GRAMMY with Kanye on ‘College Dropout’. I arrived late with his set in full swing and crowd responding well to his lyrics and performance, no hype man I might add. Playing songs off 2007s ‘The Weatherman’ and last year’s ‘Cats and Dogs’, he was feeling the love and promised to return soon. He closed the set with his story by way of his freestyle from (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KzpVvCJlEY) The Layover Mixtape, over Waynes ‘Let The Beat Build’ where he talks about his upbringing, ‘I went to school with Nicole Ritchie – She had braces’ and knowing Mark Ronson ‘…before the accent’, calling out a few rappers along the way and his friend Allen ‘…became the Alchemsit’ who he is currently collaborating with on a new album. He wrapped up to a big applause, further promising to be back soon and introducing the headline act for the evening.
The stage was set for Atmosphere, this time around performing with a keys player and guitarist, both of which they have taken on the road after utilising more live instrumentation in the studio since 2008 ‘When Life Gives You Lemons, Paint That Shit Gold’, than the traditional sample based production. For myself live instruments at hip-hop shows is a grey area that I’ve rarely seen pulled off, concluding the ideal set up is the classic DJ and MC, usually without a hype man.
Atmosphere came out on stage much to the fans approval from which MC Slug assumed his brooding state presence and ominous lyrics which fortunately loosened up over the course of the set. Playing tracks going back as far as 97s ‘Overcast’, ‘God Loves Ugly’, after an apparent complaint from the tour’s merch girl and my personal favourite ‘Sunshine’ complete with a crude lyric flip from ‘Every woman looks better in a sundress’ to ‘…naked’. Slug found himself caught off guard with the crowd finishing his lines and the dynamic of the live keys and guitar went down well, working in with Ant’s Djing. One thing that has to be said of both MC’s tonight is the clarity of their delivery, this works well in Slugs favour from his story telling and imagery he utilises in his lyrics.
Atmosphere appear to be getting stronger with time and by the response from the audience tonight they will be along for the ride.