When the NFL announced that Maroon 5 would be headlining this year’s Super Bowl LIII, more than a few Atlanta artists were less than enthusiastic about the decision. In the interim between that September announcement and the Big Game Sunday, artists like Travis Scott and Atlanta native Big Boi have been added to the bill, but fans of the city’s flourishing music scene may have had their craving for local flavor better satisfied at Thursday night’s EA Sports Bowl, the unofficial kickoff to Super Bowl weekend.
Atlanta’s newly remodeled State Farm Arena was home to the Welcome to Atlanta Showcase, which served as the first of three nights of concerts sponsored by Bud Light as part of their Super Bowl Music Fest.
Metroboomin opened the show with a set that included favorites like Migos “Bad & Boujee” and Drake and Future’s “Big Rings.” Metro, wearing Todd Gurley’s number 30 jersey and a matching Los Angeles Rams cap wasn’t at all subtle about his allegiances: “Who f—in’ with the Rams?” he asked the crowd before reluctantly adding, “Okay, where my Patriots fans at” He then continued his set, which segued seamlessly into 21 Savage sauntering on stage to perform “A Lot” off his new “I AM > I Was” project, his Metroboomin’ collaboration “10 Freaky Girls” and smash hit “Bank Account.”
Savage was followed by performances by Trippie Redd and Lil Yachty, who was met with cheers from the audience after asking “How many of y’all ready for Lil Baby?” Quality Control’s grip on the music industry couldn’t be much clearer as Baby hit the stage rapping his verse from his Drake collab “Yes Indeed,” before launching into the trap love gone bad anthem “Close Friends,” followed by “My Dawg.” By the time Baby was finishing his and Gunna’s “Drip Too Hard,” he had the entire arena worked into a frenzy, standing and rapping along.
The QC lineup didn’t end there – Migos performed nearly a full concert set, beginning with “Hannah Montana,” followed by hits like “Pipe It Up,” “Fight Night,” “Slippery” and “N—as In Trouble.” For an evening that was supposed to be full of surprises, the biggest might have been a fully transformed Gucci Mane coming out to perform “I Get the Bag,” with a physique rivaling some of the athletes in attendance (and rendering him nearly unrecognizable to fans seated in higher sections of the venue).
Migos’ extended set was followed by a DJ performance from Lil Jon that had fans literally leaning and rocking to Atlanta classics like “Knuck If You Buck,” and “If You Don’t Give A Damn.”
“I’m sorry New Orleans Saints, but y’all ain’t in the Super Bowl,” Lil Jon taunted at one point, addressing the longtime rivalry between his local Falcons and Nola’s squad. “Sorry, but I’m a diehard ATLien.”
Headliner Ludacris kicked off his finale set alongside his signature Big Head mascot for a rendition of “Welcome to Atlanta” that included Jermaine Dupri. DJ Infamous led Luda through a set list that included classics like “Area Codes,” “Ho” and “Pussy Poppin’” while dancers gyrated beside him. When Luda announced that it was time, he began to bring friend onstage, beginning with Ciara. She flawlessly executed the choreography to hits like “Oh,” “Goodies” and “1, 2 Step” and “Level Up” as a fan blew her flawlessly coiffed wavy extensions around her.
“It’s history in here tonight,” Luda reminded the crowd before bringing out Atlanta legends T.I. and Young Jeezy to perform as well.
At one point all three rappers stood beside each other as T.I. told the audience, “We are the mother—in’ culture. This is the generation that started all of this sh–, man. When you come to this city we are the gatekeepers.”
“That was the real Super Bowl halftime show,” Power 105.1’s “The Breakfast Club” radio personality Angela Yee, who hosted the EA Sports Bowl livestream alongside Terrence J said of the event.