Live Review: MIA

The City Of Angels has a surprise guest. Lot 613, Los Angeles, Wednesday, August 26

This weekend she will co-headline both San Diego’s Street Scene and San Francisco’s Outside Lands festivals, but tonight Maya Arulpragasam – don’t forget, named one of Time magazine’s most influential people in the world but a couple of months ago – belongs to a dingy, downtown, hipster-stuffed warehouse in Los Angeles.

Five hundred tickets to this last-minute, secret show have been sold just today at the super-cool Turntable Lab store, and people are queuing from 7pm. The doors are supposed to open at 9pm, they end up opening at 10pm, and MIA finally arrives on stage after 1am. This, people, is the behaviour of a now-bona fide superstar.

It’s a short, sharp set, too – heavy on fancy laser lighting and spectacle, light on new stuff. ‘Arular’ is represented by ‘Bucky Done Gun’ and ‘10 Dollar’, ‘Kala’ by a few more (‘XR2’, ‘Bamboo Banga’) and there’s ‘Two Bit Rhythm’ from her ‘Piracy Funds Terrorism’ mixtape, but the crowd are hysterical throughoutwhatever she plays. The set is peppered by her DJ with teaser gunshot sounds and, for some reason, MIA wields a gigantic ’80s mobile phone. It should look stupid, but actually looks iconic. She introduces a dancer (“White Boy”) to shake for the crowd. Ditto. Her DJ plays a snippet of Annie Lennox’s
‘No More “I Love You’s”’ before a climactic ‘Paper Planes’. No-one knows why. No-one cares why. The hipsters are instructed to “hold their cameraphones” in the air.

This instruction is not necessary. The whole thing barely lasts half an hour – approximately one-sixth of the wait for the show to begin – but the point is emphatically made: if you can hold, tease, twist and manipulate the tastemakers of this town in the palm of your hand like this, you are in a very, very good position. Lord knows when the third MIA album will arrive or just what the hell it will sound like (a year ago she told NME she’d “love to write songs like The Last Shadow Puppets”), but the world waits with bated breath.

Kevin Hartson

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