Review and photos by Karen BondowskiKicking off the first night of his 52 show tour across the U.S., rapper Atmosphere and his band would stand their ground in the sold out Luther's Blues in Madison, Wisconsin. And yes, I did say band. Tonight wasn't just your casual MC and DJ spinning records. While leaving Mr. Dibbs (Atmosphere's touring DJ) back home, Slug's four piece band consisted of Nathan Collis on guitar, Brett Johnson on bass, Erick Anderson on keyboards and Patrick Armitage on drums. It's hard to imagine that a rapper can function without his DJ, but nonetheless, the bitter sweet lyrics that sprung from Slug's mouth flowed with an intense personal conviction as the band members aggressively beat their instruments to keep pace.
Calling Minneapolis, Minnesota his home, Slug (aka Sean Daley) wears an eerie combination of happiness as well as depression like a badge. His lyrics can be so dark and rich that they could be turned into his own personal diary begging to be read by all who are interested. He wants you to hear exactly what kind of hell he's gone through. All the pain and suffering laid to bare. He'll also fill you in on the good times. Slug has been refered as the poster child for "emo rap." Even being said he was Chris Carrabba (Dashboard Confessional) and Justin Timberlake rolled into one (says writer, Jon Caramanica). Those guys just whine about anything trivial in life and feel the need to waste time on writing a song about it. Everything Slug writes is real and honest. Other then self-promoting his group's name in a few songs, he doesn't sing about killing people, hard drugs or any of the likes. Slug will tell you the truth about groupies, feeling ugly, alone or even being in love. Lyrics that could have easily been intense personal poems at first.
Slug sprung onto the stage with a hooded jacket, baseball cap, black t-shirt bearing the words "Womens Records" and baggy pants. He later discarded the jacket so he could freely roam the stage. "Always Coming Back Home to You" was kept nice and smooth as the day it was born. It came off exactly as it sounds on record. As the song progressed, the emotion gradually took over Slug's face and body. Atmosphere blends unique beats with even stranger (but effective) rhythms. He's one of the more inventive and original rappers going today. "It Goes" had everyones' hands take flight and create a great deal of turbulence as you were pulled in and mesmerized by Slug's intense vocal delivery. "One of a Kind" didn't play nearly as well as on record. The stripped down aggression was subdued in favor of an upbeat and happier groove. Slug's attempt was genuine, but the music dragged it down with no apparent motive.
While the band took a breather and exited the stage, Slug filled everyone in about a tragic accident that had happened with some friends of theirs. They had placed a donation bucket by the merch table and he kindly asked his fans to contribute anything they could to help with medical bills. That wasn't the first sign of sincerity. He's also not just another artist/musician who gets on stage and does his thing and leaves without interacting with the crowd. He placed his toes to the end of the ledge and talked to many of his fans in the front row. It really seems that he wants to get to know everyone on a personal level.
With "Shrapnel" being the most highly energized song of the night, you'd think you were hearing a very different song from the album version. On record, it has a slower, monotone beat with very few changes. Tonight the crew hyped it up with fast, upbeat reggae like sounds. During the chorus they shouted, "Shrapnel! Shards of pull cards scattered on the carpet. It's hard to breathe cause you wear a fitted target. Tug upon a choke chain, travel the cold rain. Of course I've came to show you. Shrapnel!" It put Slug and his crew in a zone while they merged into a single unbreakable unit. Other well polished songs that were performed were: "God Loves Ugly," "Woman With the Tattooed Hands" and "Don't Ever Fucking Question That."
Slug's stories are never boring. He likes to keep you on your toes. Perhaps he even prefers to live life by sitting on the edge of the chair. He express' many "thank yous" to his fans for letting him share his life on the stage. He'll probably never forgot or burn bridges with those who have been there for him. It seems his gratitude towards his life and his fans is endless.
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