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ISSUE 121 VOL 9 PUBLISHED 11/30/2007

M.I.A.'s technicolor tights captivate crowd

By Margit Ahmann
Contributing Writer

Friday, November 30, 2007

It's 10:30 a.m., the first day of Thanksgiving break, and I cannot move out of my bed. This is not St. Olaf stress fatigue. Oh no. Every muscle in my body is broken. Why? Because I traveled around the world last night.

British-Sri Lankan female singer M.I.A. came to First Avenue on Tuesday, Nov. 20 and rocked Minneapolis. The concert was sold out, like it should have been. The Cool Kids, a Chicago hip hop duo, opened. They set the appropriate atmosphere and we got our groove going to their contagious 80s beats. However, the coolest trick they brought to stage was undoubtedly the ridiculous outfit singer Mikey Rocks sported: saggy skinny jeans (oh yes, this is possible) and an oversized white crewneck sweatshirt with an eye catching screen print scene of wolves, pine trees, and a sparkly full moon. Cool!

Needless to say, we were all there for M.I.A., and the wait was torture. After several false alarms and overly enthusiastic chants, we finally got what we were waiting for. M.I.A. puts on an incredibly visual show. Donned in multicolored geometric-patterned tights, which were mirrored by the patterns projected on a screen behind her, Maya Arulpragasam's hot legs claimed the stage in a dancing fury. This girl is the coolest. Oversized sunglasses, wild mane of two-toned hair and those tights -- yet she could have worn her birthday suit and we wouldn't have noticed - it's her mad dancing skills that captivate.

The club was packed, shoulder to shoulder. With the first sounds of the opening song, "Bamboo Banga," the entire crowd miraculously migrated forward 20 feet, making our American personal bubbles even less permissible.

You cannot listen to M.I.A. and not dance. If you are unfamiliar with her music, go right now and find someone find one of your crazy friends who has some and take off your jacket because you will (and will want to) get sweaty.

Repeat: you absolutely cannot be in M.I.A.'s presence and stand still. Shockingly, there were two deadweights in front of me who tried to do so, but with enough bumps and jabs I hope they got the point. Move! Do you have a heartbeat?

The immobility of such robots is an embarrassment and an insult. M.I.A was up there with her backup singers dancing their ripped bodies to shreds. The least you can do is rock in return. At one point Arulpragasam actually asked, "Mr. Soundman, can you turn up the bass? I think we need more bass in the back. Hello people! Can you hear the bass? Why aren't you dancing!?"

Just dance! Before M.I.A. started rocking, the club was a wintry icebox, and I was regretting my coat check. But by the time "Paper Planes" played, I was whipping sweat in every direction. Not from heat, but pure physical work. I was earning my sweat.

Appreciation for the wild dancing was not particular to me and my dance major companions; no, it was unanimous (except for those few stubborn rocks). M.I.A. invited crowd members up on stage for "Bird Flu" and created this beautiful messy mélange of crazy dancers. The intimacy M.I.A. created was unreal. Several times, she dove out from the stage, intentionally and naturally integrating the audience into the performance.

The show reached a climax when M.I.A climbed her lanky legs atop the speakers and was lifted up onto the second floor balcony during "Bucky Done Gun." She ever-so-coolly climbed back down the stairs, making friends and forever fans as she grooved her way back to her platform. I don't think she knows how to walk without dancing.

There was a hot aliveness at this show that is typically lacking with the onset of Minnesota winter. M.I.A. created a heat I have never before experienced. My body is living proof. I haven't felt this sore since dance camp during summer of sophomore year in high school. Plus, I think we all left inspired to add something crazy to our wardrobes. And buy some of those tights!

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