Photo by Tom Murphy
M.I.A., the Egyptian Lover and Low B Saturday, May 17, 2008 Fillmore Auditorium, Denver Better Than: Virtually every other hip-hop show to hit town for the rest of the year.
If nothing else, this show was proof that M.I.A. brings together groups of people who otherwise wouldn’t be going to the same types of shows on a regular basis. Yuppies, punkers, indie rockers, ravers, people who usually only go to dance clubs to experience music and more -- the widest spectrum of music fans I’ve ever seen at a show -- were all in attendance.
The first act up was veteran hip-hop pioneer, the Egyptian Lover. He treated the audience to a set of old school with deep, undulating beats from his 808, synth treatments, record sampling (including one from Kraftwerk’s “Tour De France”) and scratching. He kept saying how he’d been around doing music for 25 years, but anyone who’s been listening to hip-hop and electronic music of late is aware that the sounds he helped shape are coming back into style and being used in different ways. Overall, Egyptian Lover commanded the stage and got the crowd to chant along with him, warming them up for what was to follow.
Low B, M.I.A.’s DJ for the night, did a set of more straightforward, modern club music. His beats were a little less aggressive than Egyptian Lover's, with beats that often cascaded and were punctuated by other artificial percussion. Whereas Egyptian Lover’s set could be described as electrofunk, Low B’s could be said to be more on the electrosoul side. There was little banter but more outright sampling from Eurhythmics, Kelis and Queen.
Before M.I.A.'s set, a projection of a bald, Japanese tough appeared on the back screen speaking in his native language basically about how we need to seize our own power for ourselves. Immediately following, a low-key M.I.A. wearing a desert solidier's hat -- joined by a male and female dancer and Low B -- took the stage and headed for her keyboard, where she punched in the proper programming setting "Bamboo Banga" in motion. Throughout her riveting set, M.I.A. gestured pointedly but outwardly, each moment celebratory.
Halfway through the set, the women in the audience were invited up on stage for a number to dance and sing along. This was followed by “Boyz,” in which the men were invited to take their turn. M.I.A. closed the show with “Galang” but came back up for a double encore that included “Bird Flu” and “Paper Planes.” It was a feast of sound and vision throughout. M.I.A.’s music came on like a strident, urgent and kind Fela Kuti. Fusing the worlds of hip-hop, grime, world music and house into one seamless style that recognizes no cultural, musical or even political boundaries, M.I.A.'s performance embodied the idea that music is universal.
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-- Tom Murphy
Personal Bias: I think M.I.A. is one of the most important artists in the world today. Random Detail: M.I.A. wore an Ian Curtis T-shirt for her entire performance, including the encore. By the Way:M.I.A. learned to use the Roland MC-505 from Peaches.