40 minutes after doors were scheduled to open on the M.I.A. show last Friday, I arrived to a stagnant line of fans anxious to claim their spot close to the stage. M.I.A. arrived slightly behind schedule, and you could hear her doing a sound check through the load-in doorway. As I made my way to the back of the line, I began to try to recall the last time I had really seen or heard anything from M.I.A.—the 2012 Super Bowl halftime appearance was the first thing that came to mind. Since then, M.I.A. has been a little reclusive musically, working on her fourth studio album, Matangi (to be released tomorrow, November 5, via Interscope Records), and busy collaborating on a fashion line with Versace. Friday kicked off the tour for her new album.
M.I.A. chose to nix a traditional opener, and opted for a video of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange wherein he spoke politics and press via live feed from London. Shortly after, the giant screen was disassembled, and then D.J. Venus took the stage and began pumping waves of energy into the crowd. Anticipation continued to grow as song after song came to a close.
Finally, the distinct echo of M.I.A.’s voice could be heard. The second she came out, hands flew in the air and the audience went crazy, to the point where it felt like the gap of space between the crowd and M.I.A. was non-existent. That situation remained throughout all of her performance, as she stood amongst her fans and/or pulled them up on stage at various times. The set was incredible, from the fantastic dancers (clad in clothes from that Versace line) to the never-failing sheer size of M.I.A.’s voice. Songs came from all across her albums, intermingling the old with the new and keeping the crowd’s energy at a tipping point all night.
Words and photos by Emily Korn.