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For Clairo, “the third time’s the Charm.”
Review: “Charm” by Clairo
Published July 21, 2024

Review: Atmosphere energizes hometown crowd at First Ave

The Minneapolis hip-hop duo showed remarkable energy the day after Thanksgiving.
Image by Ethan Lambert
Atmosphere performing at First Avenue on Friday, November 24.

The Minneapolis-based hip-hop duo Atmosphere capped off their fall tour with a Twin Cities double-header — one night at First Avenue and one night at the Palace Theatre in St. Paul over Thanksgiving weekend. With a new sound system in First Avenue’s main room and an extremely enthusiastic hometown crowd, rapper Slug and producer Ant rejuvenated the sold-out venue throughout their 90-minute set.

Friday night’s setlist highlighted Atmosphere’s essential early work such as “God Loves Ugly” and “Lucy Ford: The Atmosphere EP’s” along with select cuts from the group’s latest studio album, “So Many Other Realities Exist Simultaneously.”

“Okay,” the lead single and album-opener of the group’s 2023 LP, came second in the setlist. The song’s deliberately cutesy glockenspiel and keyboard melody, what one would expect more out of a corporate YouTube video targeted at children than an Atmosphere song, shows the group staying experimental. The odd production choice worked on the album and likewise worked in a live setting, as much of the crowd was familiar with the track, swaying along as Slug raps over the instrumental.

“Thanxiety,” a short track notable for its dissonant arpeggiated synth, was also performed live and fit well within the setlist. Albeit just a minute-and-a-half long, it shows a radically different side of Atmosphere than “Okay,” with its sinister-sounding instrumental.

Throughout Atmosphere’s performance, Slug exuded high energy for most of the set’s most intense, cathartic songs. The 51-year-old emcee has not lost his touch as a performer as he engaged the crowd with passionate lyrical delivery and off-the-cuff banter between songs.

Seventh in the setlist came “F— You Lucy,” one of the most famous songs from the group’s 2002 magnum opus “God Loves Ugly.” However, the raw emotion present in the studio recording was not nearly the same live. While Slug still got the crowd hyped for one of the group’s most notable tracks, his rapping could have used more passion to regenerate the palpable frustration the song has on recording.

A more chill track instrumentally from their 2002 album followed, the title track “GodLovesUgly.” Again, the crowd was engaged as the ambient, ominous piano melody rang out through the venue. A more relaxed song, relatively speaking, Slug brought the dirty feel of the track to life effortlessly as he delivers the famous opening line, I wear my scars like the rings on a pimp. I live life like the captain of a sinking ship.”

Towards the end of the show, with the group opting not to exit the stage before the encore because of the crowd’s excitement, the group ended their set on an excellent climactic set of songs starting with “Smart Went Crazy,” a song from their acclaimed 2005 album “You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having.” Slug was as energetic as ever as he rapped over the triumphant-sounding beat, laced with catchy distorted guitar licks. This was yet another instance of Atmosphere performing their material in a lively fashion, living up to the studio recordings.

Next, the group performed “Guns and Cigarettes,” yet another older cut from the group’s catalog that brought a fun vibe to First Avenue’s main room as Slug cracked jokes in between song lyrics.

Closing out the concert was “Trying to Find a Balance,” the most intense song performed that night. Dating back 20 years to their album “Seven’s Travels,” Slug was impressive as he vigorously delivered a perfect closing statement to the band’s hometown show.

For an exciting 90 minutes, Atmosphere sounded as vital as ever during their performance at First Avenue. The group showed they were still eager to perform all these years later, and given their continued knack for experimentation, they left the audience excited for whatever comes next.

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