Live: M.I.A. Encounters (And Conquers!) Further Adversity At Terminal 5

Doing a lot better now, thanks. Pics by Jason Gross, more below.
Doing a lot better now, thanks. Pics by Jason Gross, more below.

M.I.A. Terminal 5 Monday, September 27

Better Than: Getting drenched at her last gig.

Listen, Maya, if you don't like this review, don't Tweet my cell. You're having a shitty year, but everyone else has, too. Yours is just more high-profile, so get over it. Though with this show, to your credit, you pretty much did.

I don't blame you for being pissed about Lady Gaga either--this should have been YOUR year to break out with disturbing videos and bizarre fashions. But you got too brave with your latest album (call it /\/\/\Y/\, but we know it's you)--other than some pop excursions, the production's hairier and denser than what the Bomb Squad did for Public Enemy. Kudos for being raw 'n' wild, but it ain't the stuff of hits. Then again, I still think Kala's overrated.

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You've really progressed with your live show, though. In 2005 at S.O.B.'s, you were charming, small-scale. At 2007's Voice-sponsored Siren Fest, you had more attitude and stage presence. In '08 at McCarren Park, you had a full-fledged spectacle with a stage-filling posse and flashy videos. The shitty sound and torrential washout of your July Governor's Island gig was a bummer, not to mention the free-show calamity that followed, not to mention that Times article lambasting you before any of that even happened. You knew you had to redeem yourself.

But what shitty luck again! Tonight the rain knocked out some of the power in the area, forcing you to go on late. But you were smart to ignore it and do what you had to do.

Nice stage setup this time, kind of a mix of your '08 and '07 shows: a confident spectacle. Interesting contrast with the psychedelic burqa-clad dancers and less-inhibited booty-shakers right up front, backed by judiciously used big-screen video. And that overcoat//floppy hat/sunglasses getup you started with was kind of bag lady, so it was nice to see you strip down to a "F*** Google, Ask Me!" T-shirt. Honestly, the crowd loved it.

Starting out with "Bamboo Banga," "World Town" and "Galang," you seemed less distant than last time, perched at the lip of the stage, letting the crowd finish lyrics, passing the mic, crowd surfing. Those squat thrusts and hip shakes took a toll, though--you had to keep wiping yourself down. But you're sly: All that was just a prelude to the extended vamp of "Boyz," where you got your first sign of real crowd frenzy. After a brief cool-down with "Lovealot," you took the crowd back nicely with the maddening house/bhangra of "XR2," which even had the burqa dancers going nuts. You got the fever too on the sing-songy "Story to Be Told," shaking around like you were auditioning for a Tina Turner movie. But that only preceded yet another climax: "Born Free," evolving from a slow drum buildup into a wild rave. After a dubby, sexy take on "It Takes a Muscle," you were gone, with 45 minutes on the clock. Kinda weird.

You encored strong with "Teqkilla," though, making it almost as noisy as on record. Ditto the drill sounds and deafening bass of "Steppin' Up." And when the "Paper Planes" riff finally blared out, everyone was bouncing around: The fans climbing onstage and fist-pumping to the gunshot sounds made for a cool ending. A climax to all the other climaxes. Mission accomplished. Slate pretty much cleaned for now. Watch out for that power-outage-causing rain on the rest of your tour, though. And see you in a couple weeks for the free version.

Critical Bias: Really do want to see a full-scale comeback--at her best, she's much more interesting than Gaga.

Overheard: No complaints, surprisingly, about the crappy weather that pushed back the set time.

Random Notebook Dump: The show made a better case for her new album than the album itself.

Live: M.I.A. Encounters (And Conquers!) Further Adversity At Terminal 5
Live: M.I.A. Encounters (And Conquers!) Further Adversity At Terminal 5
Live: M.I.A. Encounters (And Conquers!) Further Adversity At Terminal 5
Live: M.I.A. Encounters (And Conquers!) Further Adversity At Terminal 5

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