Atmosphere paint HOB gold with beautiful rhymes

A review of Atmosphere at the House of Blues on May 13, 2009

, Staff Writer

Atmosphere’s sold-out performance at the House of Blues was an electric party showcasing one of the sickest MCs in hip-hop. Built on material from last year’s When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold, but showcasing a few old-school favorites, the underground legends played a set that was sometimes raucous and rowdy, sometimes mellow and poignant, and always thoughtful and captivating.

After graciously accepting an eruption of applause as he entered the stage, MC Slug was seemed wowed by the magnitude of the venue. “This is crazy,” he said. “This is like Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome shit. You gotta be the ugliest motherfuckin New England audience ever! Make some noise you ugly Boston bastards!” as they busted into “Godlovesugly” from 2002’s God Loves Ugly. Another round of appreciation burst when Slug removed his puffy jacket to reveal a green Garnett jersey, then brought down the house with the venomous “Puppets” and the bittersweet narrative of “The Waitress.”

With a steady, confident flow and a clever tongue spitting rhymes about parties, the rough side of life, and the everyday bad things we see, Slug (né Sean Daley) is a brilliant storyteller whose lyrics shed a positive, hopeful light on the struggles and triumphs of a variety of characters. “The Waitress,” the story of a bum on the street and his feelings for a waitress at the local café, is a bittersweet tale of love and regret, while “Puppets” is a morality tale about the trappings of fame. In a genre dominated by bling-laden douchebags rapping about Bentleys and lighting blunts with Benjamins, its refreshing to see an act built of real talent, engaging lyrics and heady subjects. I’m not a hip-hop guy, but this concert had me mesmerized.

A quiet piano introduced the dark, pensive “Painting,” and everyone stayed hushed as Slug somberly chanted “Ain’t nobody hates you more than your reflection.” Things were a little more upbeat for the buoyant “Yesterday,” but got quiet again for the brilliant performance of “Guarantees.” Accompanied only by Nate Collis on guitar, Slug’s philosophical take on life was probably the most impressive event of the evening. A gripping narrative about a frustrated man trying to take care of his family, the song is heartbreakingly beautiful and had everyone spellbound as Slug faded out, singing, “The only guarantee in life is a life worth dying for.” Noticing the number of people singing along, Slug chided “You all think you know the words to my shit?” then freestyled a new verse, telling a similarly frustrated tale of a corporate lackey aching to rip his cubicle down. Waxing poetic with lines like “I could be an internet punchline by lunchtime,” and expressing the urge to assault the boss, saying “I’ll put a few black-eyed-peas in his Fergie,” the new verse added a dose of humor an otherwise somber number.

The name of Atmosphere’s tour is “When God Give You Ugly,” and what we’re facing today made the evening all the more apropos. The loud songs were a cathartic release, and the more mellow numbers provided some serious themes to think about. Skipping the “pretentious bullshit where I leave the stage and wait for the stupid hockey chant to start up,” Atmosphere moved straight into their encore, busting into the heavy “Trying to Find a Balance,” and closing the night with “Sunshine,” both old-school treats and a great way to cap an incredible night with a thriving force in the genre of hip-hop.

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