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Live Review: M.I.A., The Warehouse Project, Manchester

Saturday, November 13

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Musician, political activist, fashion designer: MIA’s always made a proud point of her multiple personality, of being hard to pin down and even harder to anticipate. And for a while she was loved for it. With her colourful background and volatile views, she was a refreshing change from the monochrome. As the Western economy grimly shows, though, investing too much into an erratic quantity means you’re likely to get burned. MIA was outspoken about human rights, genocide, greed.

So when the New York Times ‘outed’ her as an aloof, truffle fry-eating primadonna on the release of ‘///Y/’, the backlash was visceral. Greed and hypocrisy? Look no further, they scorned. Insults were hurled at the new record like empty curses from a jilted lover, reactions to perceived deceit rather than music criticism. Normally resolute, even she seemed shaken, retreating to hurt schoolgirl mode by tweeting the phone number of the incriminating Times journalist.

Tonight she seems quietly relieved to no longer be the object of daily discussion. The Warehouse Project has a world-unto-itself aura and she is comfortable here, wandering among the masses before performing, and positively bounding on to ‘Meds And Feds’, its Sleigh Bells-sampling guitar cutting through the crystalline night air. Tonight’s set mostly comes from the recent album, and in this cavernous clubland dystopia its songs hit home far more convincingly than on record. ‘Born Free’ shakes the venue’s archways to their core, while ‘Teqkilla’’s tribalistic rhythms and scattered electronic pulses truly scramble already stretched senses.

The most remarkable thing about MIA[/b] tonight, though, is just how unremarkable she is; quiet between songs, content to tear into her back catalogue rather than her detractors. She gleefully unleashes the likes of ‘XR2’ and ‘Paper Planes’ onto a throng who care little for her extra-curricular activities, proving nothing other than her considerable live talent, the end-of-set stage invasion making concrete the bond she shares with her audience tonight. Where [a]MIA goes from this year will be fascinating; the aforementioned events coupled with an album that, in truth, failed for many despite its audacity have undoubtedly shaken her ego. Then again, hers is a character that’s ever shifting. To second guess her is foolish; greatness still lurks within MIA, and tonight’s just part of the rehabilitation process.

Simon Jay Catling

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