Atmosphere – The Hi-Fi, Melbourne (10/05/12)

It has been three years since Atmosphere last graced our shores, and six years since this writer has seen them perform, a period of time which has seen them transform from an outfit based around a microphone and turntables, which also featured live instrumentation, to a full blown live band.

Since deducting live drums from their set-up and once again including producer/DJ Ant’s drum sounds, it felt as if the group had now found a happy medium between their pop and hip-hop leanings – something of the sound that typified their most popular records, Lucy Ford and Godlovesugly, had returned.

Starting things off with a track from the new album, 2011’s The Family Sign, seemed bold, but the creepy mid-paced “Became” seemed like a fitting introduction.

Wearing a beanie and pigtails, which made him look like he could be the offspring of Willie Nelson, guitarist Nate Collis’ blues guitar wove through spots left by Erick Anderson’s keys and Ant’s boom-bap, however most people’s eyes never left the animated character working the front of the stage, delivering each lyric as if it were the first time it had occurred to him.

Slug’s stage persona, a mixture of bravado, humour and sincerity, which has made him a hit with indie-rap fans and women in general throughout Atmosphere’s career, was entertaining and compelling, as the set list moved easily throughout the group’s catalogue.

“Guns and Cigarettes”, “Between The Lines” and “The Woman With the Tattooed Hands”, all from 2001’s Lucy Ford: The Atmosphere EPs, followed in quick succession, the crowd clearly surprised and excited to be treated to so much classic material so early on. But as Slug reminded us, he “didn’t come all this way just to play the old shit”, dropping The Family Sign’s singles “Just For Show” and “She’s Enough”, two of the only upbeat moments from that largely reflective piece of work.

It was interesting to compare 2006’s show at The Espy, which had been in support of the previous year’s You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having, the loudest, most ‘hip-hop’ record Atmosphere has ever produced, to Thursday’s performance. On that tour the show had been divided into two halves, first a DJ and rapper set, followed by a full band segment, as if the two elements – the group’s live and recording configurations – could not be reconciled.

Having included the live instruments on every record since that time, and now having once again embraced Ant’s drums, Thursday’s show flowed much more consistently than in the past, and as a part of that, the group played a much greater variety of material, covering their entire recorded history.

It was a treat to hear “Scapegoat”, from 1997’s Overcast!, and “God’s Bathroom Floor”, from 1995’s HeadShots, Vol. 3 – Compensation, sitting comfortably amongst newer tracks.

Despite the set list’s eclecticism, Slug still seemed to become frustrated at fan’s demands, complaining immediately after “Blamegame”, “they ask me why I don’t play anything off Godlovesugly, I’m like dude, THAT song we just played was from Godlovesugly!”

Maybe he can’t please everybody, but surely no one that was at The Hi-Fi on Thursday night could have left disappointed after witnessing a solid lineup and a great performance in the further evolution of one of hip-hop music’s trailblazers.

Originally published on The AU Review on 16/05/2012. View original article.

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