Nearly a decade after she burst onto the rap scene M.I.A. has still got it. On a rainy, dreary Sunday evening in Montreal it only took her a few moments to have the crowd hyped to the max and barely 75 minutes total (yeah, the only complaint I heard was the short length of the show) to get her message across. Despite the fact that she is 38-years-old Mathangi Arulpragasam has managed to keep things fresh and about the music rather than the hype. This is probably why she is much older than the vast majority of her audience. On her second visit to Metropolis in the span of 6 months the crowd was largely made up of teenagers and, to be more specific, teenage girls. They are into her beats and her message. Rather than being frightened off by her stand in the face of what typically makes up popular music they are digging her scene. It is also an indication that she is rather a unique creature on the music scene. M.I.A. is not afraid to speak her mind and has been vehemently anti-establishment throughout her career. Young people can relate to that.
With a completely distinctive rap style, M.I.A., who has had completely control over her image throughout her career, has carved out a niche of her own within the rap genre. The unusual sound samples she uses really show how creative this lady is and how she has an ear for what works. If pressed to describe her sound I would say that it is a mix of dancehall, electronic, world music, punk, and hip hop. Rather than being happy making commercial or disposable music, M.I.A. has forged her own path and has been alternately criticized and rewarded for it. Her music is an attempt to represent society as she sees it and she does not hold back. This is not surprising coming from an artist that lists The Slits, Malcolm McLaren and The Clash as her major influences. Her lyrics cover topics as incendiary and non-typical as immigration, politics, war, and powerlessness.
Raw and genuine in her stage presence, M.I.A. is genuinely there for the love of the music and her fans, which she also really seems to appreciate. On stage she is really looking to make a connection with them. So much so that she is constantly on the edge of the stage, holding the microphone out to have them sing and even going out into the crowd or crowd surfing. Further proof of what she thinks of her fans is when she brought a bunch of enthusiastic girls up on stage during the song “Boyz” allowing them to take part in all the fun and be part of the show.
Something has to be said about her stage. The backdrop lights which were shaped like giant snowflakes and the lighting was something like I had never seen before and despite the fact that the spots were occasionally too much for my eyes the rest was amazing. M.I.A.’s background as a visual artist (painter and filmmaker) really shines through in the live setting. Everything is colourful including the backdrop, lights and her clothes. On this evening she was wearing a shimmering gold top with red short-shorts and white trainers. Her three dancers (two females and one male) were wearing equally colourful and shiny duds.
Most shows that you go to today whether in the dance, pop or hip hop genres are so over thought out and highly choreographed that they leave no room for moments of improv or individuality. Such is not the case with M.I.A. Nothing really looked planned and yet it all meshed together well. Her set list is just about all that is set up ahead of time; the rest is left to the artist herself and go according to her mood at the time. On this evening she was obviously feeling relaxed and happy and it came through in the show.
The crowd enthusiasm was kept at a high from moment one until she left the stage with the final notes of her fantastic song “Bad Girls” vibrating off the walls making for a high energy and enjoyable evening. She and her show were just what were needed to make us venture back out into the rain without grumbling.
- 1) Story Be Told
- 2) Helemaal naar de Klote
- 3) Bucky Done Gun
- 4) Bird Flu
- 5) Sunshowers
- 6) World Town
- 7) Bring the Noize
- 8) Bamboo Banga
- 9) U.R.A.Q.T.
14) Double Bubble Trouble
16) Paper Planes
17) Bad Girls