2010 was supposed to be M.I.A.’s year. ‘Paper Planes’ had finally brought her to the masses and new album ‘/\/\/\Y/\’ was going to be massive. Only it wasn’t. Tonight, though, Mathangi Arulpragasam proves to still be the ultimate party-thrower on the planet, turning a Wednesday night Brixton into a garish, mad carnival that exotically writhes to hip-hop, raggaeton and dub-step beats while hypnotised by a giant screen beaming brilliantly crap visuals and flickering gif files.
The set is short (forty five minutes before an encore of another fifteen) and is divided into the old stuff (which people go insane for) followed by a remixed version of new single ‘It Takes A Muscle’ that marks the start of the new songs (which people don’t go insane for). For that first half hour, as M.I.A. winds to the floor in electric blue hot pants and we do the same (not in hot pants), tracks like ‘Boyz’ and ‘Bucky Done Gun’ still rattle the skull, animate the hips and sound like nothing else in the world. The new tracks, less so, but there is an extra bassiness to them that makes ‘Born Free’ feel like a weapon impossible to ignore. There’s no ‘XXXO’, which, other than the short stage time, is the only real disappointment, because there’s still no one like M.I.A., musically, and in terms of performance. We just hope that 2010’s knock back doesn’t prompt that premature retirement she’s always spoken about.
By Stuart Stubbs
Originally published in issue 23 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. November 2010