From Radiohead to James Brown, ATL Collective re-creates iconic albums in concert

The next show, covering Pearl Jam’s Ten, is this Saturday at Terminal West
ATL Collective
Ruby Velle and Fred Wesley perform at last year’s Funky Christmas concert

Photograph by Ronald Scott

In an era when you can hear any song by any artist in any order you choose, does anyone have the patience to listen to an entire album, front to back, without interruption? Songwriter and musician Micah Dalton says yes.

In 2009 he and fellow musician David Berkeley created ATL Collective, a performance project meant to champion not only great albums but also local musicians. “We wanted the enthusiasm that people have for the city to bleed over into music,” says Dalton.

About once a month, they began gathering a group of musician friends together to re-create one classic album live onstage. No music genre is off-limits; the only rule is that the record must be at least 20 years old or close to it. Concerts have included Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, the Clash’s London Calling, Johnny Cash’s At Folsom Prison, Radiohead’s OK Computer, and Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On.

When selecting an album, “we consider whether it works well with the season. Graceland is perfect to relive in the summer, while Pink Moon is fabulous for winter. Is it a major anniversary of an album? Is there something happening culturally that the album speaks to?” says booking and ticketing director Rhiannon Klee, one of a handful of ATL Collective staff. “We also try to choose performers who have a close relationship to the material.”

ATL Collective often uses theatrical elements to create a more immersive experience, inviting dancers to perform moves from a music video, or a musician who has worked with the original artist to offer personal anecdotes onstage. “Everything is very intentional, to glue together the album and give listeners more context,” says Dalton. Yet some of the most memorable moments have been unexpected. During a 2013 performance of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, the power went out, and audience members jumped in to finish singing “Billie Jean.” Says Dalton, “It’s all about shortening the distance between the fans and the music.”

See them live: The next ATL Collective show, covering Pearl Jam’s Ten, is at 9 p.m. Saturday, January 21 at Terminal West.

This article originally appeared in our December 2016 issue.