An assault on my senses. That was M.I.A. last night at Brixton Academy. A full on attack on all your senses simultaneously. It was loud, colourful, and abrasive – like a 80s rave on speed. This though is what you’d expect from an artist who fuses every possible dance based sound imaginable; from techno and dubstep, to drum ‘n’ bass and electro, she creates an addictive “noise” which forces you to listen, enjoy and pretty much shake all of God’s gifts.
Last night’s stop on the tour was in many ways a treasure – the colour and energy and sheer randomness of the performance was like nothing I had seen before. M.I.A seemed like a kid let out for the first time or an alien just landed and presented with humans for the first time. At every opportunity she wanted to jump in to the crowd, touch them and play only to be pulled back by her security.
She did not play with a band (the drummer who appeared for the last few songs doesn’t count), however she is one of the few performers who didn’t need one. Her music sounds so industrial, that trying to force a band in to playing it would do the sonic-madness a disservice.
It is the madness though which got in the way of the performance though. The continual strobe lighting made me think I may have epilepsy and it was almost impossible to make out what she was saying during her bouncy, quick-fire rapping. From the moment she came on stage until she left, the only words I understood were, galang galang, love, London, fight, purple haze and maybe a naaah.
Then again, it didn’t really matter what she was saying, she could have been chanting in Hiligaynon for all I care because it was the pacey, edgy music that had people moving (and practically having sex on the dancefloor in the case of the teenagers standing next to me).
M.I.A was a total and utter rush of blood, fluorescent colours, strobe lighting, smoke and ginger ravers to the head. However, it’s joys were also it’s downfalls in having too much forced randomness and not enough simple spontaneity.
If you want a full on and relentless attack of sound and colour at your gig then M.I.A is a must. If that is all a bit too much (or you suffer from epilepsy, or have nervous disposition), then the M.I.A experience will be just a little overwhelming (ok – very overwhelming!).