Atmosphere slugs it out at House of Blues

From the first lines of “God Loves Ugly” to the last chants of “let it shine,” indie-rap outfit Atmosphere owned the House of Blues on Tuesday night.

An enthusiastic crowd packed the hall, raising fists and rapping along to a set list that drew from new and old albums nearly as often and with equal energy.

“I want to put you all on my tour bus and take you all on tour,” rapper Sean “Slug” Daley told the audience after a particularly strong showing of support. Backed by his partner, DJ and producer Anthony “Ant” Davis, along with a back-up vocalist, keyboardist and guitarist, Slug led the House of Blues through a sing-a-long of Atmosphere hits, often using the live instruments to add a new layer to familiar songs. Guttural guitar licks stepped up the intensity of “Shrapnel,” and on “Guarantees,” off 2008’s When Life Gives You Lemons You Paint That Sh*t Gold an acoustic guitar part took the tune to a folksy place that clearly amused the 36-year-old frontman.

“This is my campfire song,” interjected Slug during the tune, which tells the story of a man struggling to make ends meet on a dead-end job. “The only guarantee in life/Is a life worth dying for,” the rapper sang with a smile before adding, “Let’s make some s’mores” to the somber refrain.

Even between songs, Slug played the part of storyteller or slam poet, his spoken intonation adding a musical lilt to filler chats about touring with MURS and getting older. Before launching into “Modern Man’s Hustle,” Slug recounted fellow rapper MURS’ affection for the song and how he would dance around on stage waving his arms when the pair used to tour together.

“I need you to be my MURS tonight,” he told the crowd. A sea of swinging hands happily obliged.

Before the 36-year-old rapped his goodnight at the totally responsible hour of about 10 p.m., Slug prepared for the close of his show with a disclaimer and a treat.

“Listen, you (expletive), I’m not that good at freestlying,” he laughed. “This is when (the show) nosedives.”

But the concert didn’t bellyflop there. Slug freestyled his way through a few impressive minutes, and, after a raucous round of applause, closed the show with the feel-good number “Sunshine.” A celebratory summer anthem that pays homage to Will Smith’s “Summertime,” the crowd left singing its refrain as they headed back out into the hot Vegas night.

(For a photo slideshow, see this story at Las Vegas Weekly.)

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