By David Lurvey
In the weeks leading up to the M.I.A concert at Cornell I had to take a step back and think about my absolutely flawed perception of Maya Arulpragasam. M.I.A. was more of an idea than a real person. This politically raucous, always outspoken, pop megastar from Sri Lanka was just too much for my brain to accept as someone who had flesh and embodied space in this world. So, needless to say, I was excited for this show for the simple fact that I would maybe start to come to realize her as a more than an abstraction.
While my confusion regarding M.I.A. before the show was overpowered by my desire to get my proverbial “groove on,” I was totally taken aback by the lack of energy from the majority of the crowd. Only once M.I.A. started pulling people on stage did people seem to perk up and start getting excited (or maybe it was the Patron she was passing out?). Always the rule breaker, M.I.A.’s attempts to get the crowd going seemed too late, but I don’t blame her for that. I think it’s safe to say that Ithaca didn’t get M.I.A. While my friends and I were dancing spastically (or maybe just me) it seemed like everyone around us was as rigid as I would expect at an Antlers show.
That being said, I thought it was a really good show and I didn’t let the lack of energy from the rest of the crowd bring me down. Standouts from M.I.A.’s set for me were “Bamboo Banga,” “Boys,” and “Born Free.” I thought she sounded good, even considering that I’m not the biggest fan of her recorded stuff. I thought it was a fun show and I think it’s a shame that people seemed so distant.
The lack of energy from the crowd could be blamed on M.I.A.’s extended break after opener Rye Rye finished (which was filled with a short DJ set) or some might blame it on Rye Rye’s performance (I disagree completely. I thought her set was strong too, especially “Shake it to the Ground”). Blame it on a Sunday night? No, none of these seems to fit. A more accurate explanation, I think: half that crowd paid $25 to hear “Paper Planes.”
But all of that aside, this concert did something to my perception of M.I.A. I can now accept her as a human being who lives and breaths and breaks the rules.
What did other people think of the show? I’d love to hear other perspectives. Comment below.