Tuesday night, home drearily YouTubing M.I.A., and my friend Dan calls with news of an extra ticket for her second and last show at the Echoplex. Click-click! We head over, and I can happily report that homegirl held it down! Her beats are direct hits, an unrelenting barrage from the sonic depths of basically the whole planet, and she performed with real hunger and faith, mercilessly flirting the whole time. The room felt aflame, and the crowd was hyped, soaked. "I need to get married tonight," she said at one point. "I have eleven months on my visa. That's enough time to get married and have a baby. Shout out to the FBI in the house!"
It's no surprise the singer's having "visa issues." M.I.A. is a walking rocket of cultural terrorism, metaphorically bombing borders by sounding like Iran mixed with Mexico mixed with India mixed with Ghana mixed with Nigeria mixed with Jamaica mixed with the Bronx mixed with Puerto Rico mixed with Brazil and pulled together by a stunning package of Sri Lankan glamour. It's like globalization carnival ride music -- for the scary rides.
If she were frumpy, was chubby and had a double-chin, would we still worship her? If her eyes were a half-shade less intense, her bouncing a little less rubbery, her cockeyed sailor's hat a little less perfect, her anthems a little less sticky, would we bow down before her the way that we did last night?
The answer is, Yes, give us more! But who are M.I.A.'s fans, really? Anyone else besides insider-y, media savvy hipster kids like the sort that populate parts of L.A. and Brooklyn, those who got to see one of these four small-venue shows on either coast? As she grimes it up ostensibly for the world's dispossessed, will we ever hear the working poor of L.A. bumping M.I.A. while driving down Figueroa? Remember, M.I.A. might say, "piracy funds terrorism."
* Photo lovingly borrowed from the Fader.