Concert Reviews

Last Night: M.I.A. And Holy Fuck At The Palladium Ballroom

M.I.A. and Holy Fuck May 2, 2008 Palladium Ballroom

Better than: Confusing the African Anteater Ritual with the latest dance craze, as seen in the 1987 classic Can't Buy Me Love

Very few people actually took the bait. M.I.A.'s set was "over" after a 50-minute performance ending with "Galang," almost certainly the biggest hit off of her debut album, Arular--but not even close to the biggest hit of her career.

And the crowded floor at the Palladium was supposed to believe the show was over, without even a sniff of her monster 2007 hit "Paper Planes"?


Not a chance.

Plus, the house lights were still off.

Still, when M.I.A. finally reappeared, she merely teased her audience. No, she wouldn't go right into "Paper Planes." Instead, she chose to placate the crowd with flashy running man-like dance with her hypewomean and her backup dancer as she led a call-and-response session set to the beat of Ciara's "Goodies." It was...OK.

And then "Paper Planes" came on. The audience, not at all surprisingly, went batshit. Their hands thrust upwards as they danced with the same crump-like moves M.I.A. had showcased earlier in their set.

Finally: satisfaction.

Not that the earlier portion of the evening was a disappointment--it wasn't. M.I.A. climbed the 6-foot speaker to the side of the stage to perform one song, members of the audience crowd surfed to others, and at least 50 females found themselves sharing the Palladium stage with the world dance music phenom at one point.

Indeed, it was quite a show. The crowd loved it. But M.I.A.--looking like a child who just learned to dress herself, wearing heavy, glittery, silver eye shadow, a white tiger print shirt, a red-sequined tanktop, black-sequined tights and a yellow- and green-feathered headdress that looked like a jester's that--and her crew didn't seem to sense the energy on the floor.

That's a problem at the Palladium--there's a disconnect between the audience and the performer. Sure, the warehouse-like atmosphere creates a rave-like fiesta when an act like M.I.A. comes to perform. And the sound system is phenomenal. But something about the venue--the high ceilings, perhaps--seems to drone out the crowd noise. Multiple times throughout M.I.A.'s set, she and her hypewoman pleaded the crowd for more energy--only, it wasn't the standard faux-pleas heard at a normal high energy show. This time it seemed real, like M.I.A. and Co. legitimately couldn't hear the crowd.

And yet the crowd was most definitely into it. Warmed up by a good-but-hardly-great set from experimental electronic quartet Holy Fuck and a cut-up set of popular dance club hits from M.I.A. DJ Million Dollar Mano, the audience was more than ready--and surprisingly lubricated, despite the long lines to the few bars open at the Palladium on this evening--to indulge themselves in a dance party.

All night long, that's what they got: a dance party--and never more so than when the encore closer "Paper Planes" blared for their wanting ears.

Satisfied, when the song came to a close and the house lights lifted--this time for real--they left the Palladium with smiles on their faces. Fun times.

Critic's Notebook Personal Bias: None, really. I went into this show pretty ambivalently. I like M.I.A.'s stuff--yes, especially "Paper Planes" and "Galang"--but I wasn't looking to bust my ass on the dance floor. Not on this night. Even after two Red Bulls. Whatever.

Random Note Before M.I.A. entered the stage, a subtitled video of an Asian politician ran on the LED screen behind the stage. As it ran, it was tough not to be reminded of the whole controvery surrounding the Rev. Jeremiah Wright; the subtitles indicated that the country the politican came from was anti-minority and that elections were useless, so we might as well destroy the country. It was a bit odd, and the crowd was lukewarm with its response. Some crowd members cheered at the video's message, but it was hardly an overwhelming applause.

By The Way: I didn't get around to mentioning it in my write-up of Thursday night's Glow in the Dark Tour show, but during her set at Center, Rihanna covered "Paper Planes." It was pretty much the low-point of her set, as she warbled over the covered track. Obviously, M.I.A.'s version kicked the crap out of hers. Big shocker there, huh? --Pete Freedman