Live review: Atmosphere with Evidence and Blueprint at The Beacham, Orlando

A wrap-up of the alt hip-hop outfit's Sunday night show

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Some music is made to be listened to alone. Atmosphere's very particular brand of alternative hip hop is dark and brooding. It's music to think to. You don't throw on some Atmosphere to get the party started. You throw it on at 4 a.m., long after the party has died, as you sit alone surrounded by mounds of smoldering cigarette butts and empty beer bottles, reflecting on what the hell just happened. Bonus points if your girlfriend left the party with some other guy.

I'd always thought it would lose something if there were too many people in the room. But Atmosphere's show this past Sun., Sept. 18, at The Beacham Theatre in Orlando has changed my mind.

When blasted at a building-shaking volume, Atmosphere's intimate little stories become powerful anthems, shouted back to the stage by a crowd of nearly 1,000 fist-pumping fans who seemed all too familiar with their tales of rocky relationships, past-due bills and too much drinking. It looked like a mass catharsis, a violent of purging of middle-class angst. Frontman Slug had a better way of describing the scene during a break in the show: "We're a bunch of idiots. This is the closest most of us are ever going to get to a church."

In other words, Atmosphere killed it when they rolled into O-Town for the "Family Vacation" tour. The two newest members of the group, keyboardist Erick Anderson and guitar player Nate Collis, played live during the set, adding a new dimension to songs that came well before they joined the longtime two-man crew last year. Song's like "Puppets" and "Grown Man's Hustle" became a showcase for Anderson's meandering piano melodies. Collis sitting on a box, strumming his acoustic during "Guarantees" completed the folk-rap, everyman image conjured in the lyrics. Ant, the group's producer/show DJ spent the night chain smoking and nodding his head behind a Mac Book.

But as always with Atmosphere, the star of the show was Slug. He stepped on stage mimicking a giddy 5-year-old, shaking his arm in the goofiest of goofball waves to the crowd. Maybe it was the 39-year-old emcee's way of showing that he hasn't quite grown into the "mature" label pinned on him since the release of 2011's The Family Sign. From there he proceeded to work the crowd with a veteran's command of the stage, running through a mix of the old ("Shrapnel") the new ("If You Can Save Me Now," "The Last To Say") and the rare ("Until The Nipple's Gone"). The only misstep in the show was his disappointingly off-cadence and slept-through version of "Always Coming Back Home To You." No matter though; Slug's story of his brief, early 1990s employment at an Orlando-area coffee shop, "back when coffee was still underground" had the crowd literally pounding and kicking the balcony walls to sound their approval.

Atmosphere's Rhymesayers Entertainment labelmates Blueprint and Evidence opened up the show nicely. Blueprint kicked things off with a set that introduced what I have come to believe is the rap world's first-ever keytar. Evidence drew some honest cheers from the crowd when he asked "who's here that never heard of me?" but seemingly won them over by closing his set out strong with the DJ Premiere-produced track "You" off his upcoming Cats and Dogs LP.

Shoulda Known
Until The Nipple’s Gone
Grown Man’s Hustle
She’s Enough
If You Can Save Me Now
The Last To Say
My Notes


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