LastNight: MIA Rides 'Paper Planes,' Takes Fillmore Fans' Money

Categories: Music

(clicking on the photo takes you to a slideshow)
MIA and the Kool Kids
November 7, 2007
The Fillmore (sold-out)
Better than:
a coup de tat
Download: A fan video of stand-out track Paper Planes

Sprightly UK dance rapper MIA took fans all over the world advocating armed revolution during a relentless, infectiously tribal sold-out concert at the Fillmore Auditorium Wednesday evening. After M.I.A.'s tepid Treasure Island date in September, the show tested the theory that the quality of her music is dependent on its context.

The answer is ...

yes, her music is context-dependent -- even she requested the volume be louder and people get crazier. The global icon wished she could eradicate the physical barriers between her stage and her fans, and when the show ended by a tidy 10:30 p.m., I suspected a bigger, crazier after-party was brewing somewhere else in town; somewhere more hot, dense, and damaged – a place where MIA's powers would be exalted and at their zenith.

Some people assume context-dependence is a given and all art is subject to redefinition by its the circumstances. Others assume true art should triumph over context, that good music is good music no matter where or how you hear it. I advocate the obvious – there's a certain variability to how context-dependent music is – and the less variable, probably the better quality. Whether it's a dark, dank Sri Lankan club full of knife-weilding dancers, or the pasty halls of SF's elite venue – your music should stand up. And in that respect, MIA lacked some key contextual ingredient last night. But what she put forth was more than enough. Her militant, pan-global insurgency-themed set included some brilliant moments.

“Paper Planes'” gunshot-riddled chorus had the whole audience displaying bandito avarice and firing mimed pistols into the ceiling. The hypnotic rhythm of “Boyz” hijacked the legs of even the most reserved dweebs, who mimed the tribal dances flashing on-screen behind the waif. And MIA earned her keep -- flailing, flirting, grinding, bumping, and shaking her breasts and squawking like a tropical bird. She weighs so little she could ride a paper plane, yet her personality stood fifty-feet tall and had a dictatorial streak.

“Turn up the bass,” she insisted. “I want people to feel it. It should be like a club. Don't look at me. Look at each other.”

She commanded platoons of reserved fans onto the stage, charging, “I want the crazy people up here. You have to be a leader. Get up here.”

Everyone got their $25 dollars worth, but you just sort of knew – tonight's show at the Mezzanine will be more bananas, because it's the Mezzanine and a Thursday night. But even that context would be tame compared to seeing the sexy brown thing work her mojo in some simmering, packed Congolese soundclash turned up to 120 decibels. The whole shack would shudder on the verge of genuine proletariat revolt.

Critic's Notebook
T.I. Fest, way too many dance shows to count anymore.
Personal Bias: I like a round ass you can fit in one hand.
Random Detail: The free posters kinda sucked. MIA's visual style is way more raw than the animal clip art they slapped together. Just saying.

--David Downs

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