When I saw M.I.A.‘s performance on the 2009 Grammy’s, while 9 months pregnant and due to deliver that same day, two thoughts crossed my mind, either this woman is crazy or she is extremely committed to her fans and art. As I road the packed ferry over to Governor’s Island for the HARD NYC Festival in which M.I.A. was the headliner, I began to wonder which of those two thoughts were true. Was she a highly committed artist who stops at nothing to deliver what her fans crave? Or is she just another loony who should be rushed to Bellevue Hospital instead of the main stage.
I am very surprised to have read many reports of fans being highly disappointed and leaving early. I have attended many concerts where I have paid top dollar and walked away feeling “why the heck did I spend my money?”, but such was not the case for this show.
Granted I thought about leaving in the middle of M.I.A.’s set, not because of her over all performance, but because she didn’t hit the stage until 11:45pm. The idea of how much of an unpleasant experience it was going to be to get off the island with the tired and wasted added to my doubts of making it through the rest of the evening. Skream and Benga’s DJ set seemed to last forever, I was mildly impressed by Brooklyn duo Sleigh Bells, and I became restless and irritated by South African group Die Antwoord (who reminded me of the rapping Dalmatians from the movie Brown Sugar). By the time M.I.A.’s show started, I was exhausted from the humidity, had been trampled on, doused with beer, and choked by second hand smoke. Any other less committed person might have left, but I was there to see M.I.A.
By all accounts I do agree that the sound system was not great. It was so loud that it was not clear what song M.I.A was singing or even if her mic was working, but she continued on in-spite of technical difficulties and just as entertaining as the performances I had seen on TV. I was excited to hear her perform my favorites such as Steppin Up and Teqkilla from her current album, Maya, and Bambo Banga and World Town from her last album, Kala.
What most reviews failed to mention is that when the rain started pouring, the lights went down and one of the crew members rushed up to tell her she needed to get off the stage, but she refused to end her show. M.I.A. said to the crowd “this time it’s not about the cops… It’s about God… They don’t want me to get electrocuted since I’m hot like fire! RAIN! RAIN!”. It was at this moment I think M.I.A. proved her dedication and loyalty to her fans. Her Acapella performance of Born Free was made more symbolic by her defiance to end the show due to nature’s wrath.
I walked a way from that show not disappointed by M.I.A.’s short set, but inspired. Inspired to be more creative, more passionate, and work harder at whatever I desire and not let anyone tell me no or that I can’t. With that I have more love and respect for M.I.A.
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