Tessa Roy ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Assistant Editor
Leave it to M.I.A. to temporarily render a group of security guards powerless. The rapper had people hopping barriers to join her onstage when she brought her Matangi tour to Boston’s House of Blues. She proved she not only has the power to entertain, but the power to connect with an audience in a way few other artists do.
The presence of M.I.A. is incredibly unique. She is confident, but never arrogant, through everything she does. While some artists flaunt themselves in the spotlight and exploit their performer status, M.I.A. has a less conceited way of owning the stage. Her show had a rather elaborate helicopter-simulation-backed-by-politically-undertoned-speech opening, but she herself made no explosive entrance. She walked nonchalantly onto the stage and quickly prepped her set on a Macbook before she began. She had no interest in being seen as a superior merely because she was the performer. Rather, she placed herself on equal ground with her audience. She played for them and made the night about them, not herself.
This type of approach undoubtedly fared well with her fans, who swayed and jumped along with her and her dancers to the beats of “Xr2,”“Bamboo Banga,”“Bucky Done Gun,”and, naturally, her big hits “Paper Planes”and “Bad Girls.”However, she didn’t even need a beat to be enthralling. She busted out a skillful a cappella rapping of “Bring the Noize,”and drew ecstatic cheering from the audience. The fans reveled in the attention she paid them, catching her after a stage dive and eagerly participating when she asked them to join her on the stage.
“This is the lesson. Help her, then help yourself. There’s way more of you than a bunch of security guards. If you decide to help each other you can do anything,” she said, before aptly playing “Pull Up the People.”The fans obliged, pulling each other over the barriers and up onto the stage.
Once there were enough people on the stage to evoke panicked expressions on the faces of the security guards, M.I.A. launched into “Y.A.L.A.”and a full-on dance party ensued. Even the people who didn’t have the experience of being pulled onstage were enjoying it; just to see a horde of people rocking out to M.I.A.’s mockery of the “Y.O.L.O.”motto onstage with her was an experience in itself.
Many in the House of Blues that night were probably expecting M.I.A. to make some sort of controversial statement as she is well known for her outspokenness on many social and political issues. While she did not extensively speak on such topics outside of referencing them in her songs, she did take some time in the middle of her set to address her ongoing legal war with the NFL (she briefly flipped the bird while performing with Madonna at the 2012 Superbowl halftime show and was unfortunately slapped with a multi-million dollar lawsuit).
“I want everyone to put their hands like this,”she said, forming a heart with her hands. She then casually asked to borrow a phone from a fan, took a photo of the sea of hand hearts, and told the owner of the phone to put it on the Internet so someone would eventually find it and “show it to the NFL.”It’s uncertain whether the photo actually made its way onto the Internet, but based on the shouts and fist pumps of support, the gesture will be talked about nonetheless.
While a stunt like this or her intelligent, infectious music are certainly factors, they aren’t the biggest reasons why M.I.A.’s show was memorable. She was unforgettable because she was in sync with her audience the entire time, and never once used her celebrity standing to portray herself as better than anyone else in the room. She and her fans do not have a warm, fuzzy, falsified bond, but rather a genuine mutual respect that is rarely seen with other artists. For this reason, M.I.A. stands out from the rest, and is sure to be bringing in more fans for years to come.
The Matangi Tour is ongoing. Visit M.I.A.’s website for dates.