Is M.I.A. Missing In Action?, or, How 2 Make A Gun W/ UR Hand

The Vic Theatre – Chicago, IL
9/29 & 9/30 – /\/\/\Y/\, out now!

Whether she wants to admit it or not, M.I.A. is a celebrity. Since the (commercial) success of “Paper Planes,” the performance artist turned electro-banger sailed on to create an album which spawns controversy wherever it lands. One of Maya Arulpragasm’s recent music videos (directed by Romain Gavras) caused quite the anger-gasm as the majority of the viewing public failed to understand just exactly what the artist was trying to say.

Known for her explicitly catchy yet thought provoking statements, M.I.A.’s words were only half realized as her vocals were surprisingly M.I.A. on the first night in Chicago. The wildly fanatic crowd eagerly picked up where the artist left off, my only question for the artist is for the artist is, “Where is your head?”

Yes, I had an absolute blast. Yes, you will dance until your hammies hurt. Yes, you will get pulled on stage if you are one of the lucky, well-dressed few… only if you get your ass on over to The Vic Theatre. The venue filled up steadily after doors opened, and once Rye Rye started her bass-booming set, chances are slim of anyone pushing through the shoulder-to-shoulder wall of hip-to-hip hipsters.

There were mixed signals coming from M.I.A., though. Maybe I was part of the few who noticed how indifferent she seemed to mouth her lyrics. There are several sources who claim she lip-synced her way through the first part of her set which I can believably follow. I was mostly just hoping that this “stardom” is not how she wants to promote herself. She does however live in one of the richest neighborhoods in sunny California, writing about the perils of real world trauma.

The show seemed more focused on the crowd than M.I.A. as her microphone was barely audible. She just did not seem interested to be there. Maybe that’s how I imagined it as the fans in the front rows often got passed the mic to scream nonsense or give a shout out to their homies. Way to drop the ball, dudes. Maya did perk up as the crowd’s antics overshadowed her own. Climbing on top of speakers she perched and watched the venue, choosing to sing when she felt like for a few songs before returning to tease the crowd on the lip of the stage.

During “Teqkilla,” she literally brought out a bottle of Tequila (Patron, for those who care to know) to share during the song. As she handed it off to an obviously underage fan, the initial offering was stopped by a security guard. Obviously, the bottle of Patron quickly found its way to the (18+) crowd, and no one seemed to mind the “sticky sticky icky icky” being passed between the stage and audience.

From “Galang” to “XXXO,” M.I.A. went through two separate sets of some of her best (known) songs, the crowd grew more and more fanatic to get a piece of her. The entertainer not threw herself into the crowd, but bracelets, papers, a military hat and maybe a bowl or two made its way into the crowd for fans to wrestle and fight over a small memento that M.I.A. once touched.

I swear I saw someone try for a lock of her hair before two security guards snagged her back to relative safety.

The half-hearted “Paper Planes” was basically shouted by the crowd as M.I.A. was on and off The Vic’s stage, grabbing fans and being distracted by the entire set of performers who swarmed on stage, a la SNL. With the group of fans and performers on stage, the entertainer took the time to thank the Chicago crowd for coming out (with her mic turned down.) Maya then took a last look across the floor and disappeared somewhere behind the radical light show set up. As the crowd thinned and the house lights crept up, there was a wild euphoria in the air, almost as if we had all imagined the same dream at the same time.

Everyone lit up.

BONUS: I know “Paper Planes” has been played to death, but around the (commercial) success, the always fantastic DFA Records (think LCD Soundystem, The Rapture, Hot Chip, Hercules and Love Affair, among others) released a down-low remix for those in the know. It reminds me why I liked the song in the first place, because I sure tuned out when I heard it EVERY WHERE I WENT.

(d/l with the arrow)

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  1. Blake,

    Would you happen to know what was the DJ Lineup for the M.I.A. concert on 09/29? I have been looking for this information all over the internet, but I cannot find it. Thanks in advance.

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