M.I.A. Kicks Off Tour at Terminal 5

November 4th, 2013

M.I.A. – Terminal 5- November 1, 2013

For fans of M.I.A., the ever-controversial, ever-evolving musician, the element of surprise—in both her sound and her career’s direction—is part of what makes her such a fascinating artist, and has also become part of her trademark. Therefore, at Terminal 5 on Friday night at the kickoff of her tour in support of her latest album, Matangi, when a screen onstage beamed in a giant video feed of her friend and recent collaborator, the exiled Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, it felt both shocking and par for the course. Before ceding the stage to M.I.A. and her posse of musicians and backup dancers, Assange gave a 10-minute introductory talk about our ever-waning privacy and the dangers of government corruption, and encouraged us to take an active role in learning about the systems and organizations that run the government.

In contrast to the staid introduction, M.I.A.’s performance was an explosion of sounds, colorful lights, movement and energy. In a gold-and-silver metallic ensemble, she showed off her populist proclivities by climbing right up to the audience barricade to perform as close to the fans as possible—later asking “Who wants to come onstage?” before inviting a few lucky individuals to show off their best moves.

M.I.A. mixed in tracks from Matangi, like “Y.A.L.A.” and “Come Walk with Me,” along with older favorites, “Boyz” and “Pull Up the People.” At one point, she paused her dancing to throw plastic bags filled with colored powder from the stage. As people caught them, the bags burst, creating clouds of colorful dust, coating the sweaty revelers in layers of magenta, orange and electric blue. Following a quick wardrobe change, M.I.A. returned to the stage, and the crowd erupted at the opening beats of “Paper Planes” and “Bad Girls.” As she performed, M.I.A. draped a long scarf over her head, extending her arms with the scarf like wings, and seeming for a moment, lost in the music—not making a statement, not causing a commotion—just enjoying herself. —Alena Kastin

Photos courtesy of Mina K