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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

M.I.A. @ Turner Hall Ballroom

Monday, May 12, 2008

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  There's nothing quite so deliciously satisfying to one's ironic sensibility than witnessing the "majority" cheer for the videotaped speechifying of Kouichi Touyama, a street musician who ran for governor of Tokyo in 2007. A candidate whose only discernable platform was one of destruction, much to the audience’s delight Touyama harangued, "the majority of you are my enemy … There is no choice but to destroy this worthless country."

  Touyama was a fitting introduction indeed for Maya Arulpragasam, alias M.I.A., Britain's ostentatious provocateur and purveyor of decorative politics, who is on the Midwestern leg of her "People vs. Money" tour,

  M.I.A.'s insidious charm—and her power—lies in an elaborate surface treatment of revolution, a pixilated tableau touting a "third-world democracy;" an ass-shakable orgy of icons and beats which both seduce and implicate her first-world audience. Unfortunately, her message was lost in translation for many of her fans, whose progressive acts seem limited to elbowing from the aft of the throng to the fore with tall boys of PBR in hand.

  M.I.A. appears to have captured the hearts, minds and wallets of the fashionably aware demographic; an under-25, middle-class, counter-culturally disenfranchised Midwestern chapter of which stormed the stage en masse for "Bucky Done Gun" and "Boyz," shaking their nubile moneymakers to the golly-gee deadpan "gosh it's the new warlord."

  After a brief and belated set, M.I.A. returned to the stage for her encore, "Paper Planes," an infectious track that plunders The Clash's "Straight to Hell," while maintaining its critique of Western xenophobia. In the context of her performance, however, "Paper Planes" functions as a Greek chorus and a metaphor for M.I.A.'s mystique: "All I wanna do is [bang bang bang bang] and a [cha-ching] take your money."

  On this particular evening, the price for a passport at the border was $27.50, and M.I.A. lined her coffers with student loan disbursement checks, traded earnestly for cultural currency. After all, at reality's exchange rate, people equal money, and the American dollar is weak.