1. Last time I saw a show at The Armory, the Breeders were opening for Nirvana. Now I remember why it’s been 14 years before I went back for more. Leaning into the slight incline of 33rd and Market like a rigid salute, the Armory was literally designed to shelter tanks, thus it is built like a brick shithouse — and it sure sounds like one, too.
2. Still, there is something fitting about an fundamental peacenik like M.I.A. transforming this mouldering edifice of the military-industrial complex into roiling rave of shock-and-awe dance jams and kaleidoscopic hip-hop and packing it with supple, stylish, draft-aged youth.
3. At first, the cavernous acoustics seemed to work for M.I.A., lending “Bamboo Banger” a sub-oceanic heft, as Maya and her backing MCs alternated between cooing ululations and Shiva-The-Destroyer shrieking. “I’m knocking on the doors of your Hummer, Hummer,” she intoned with a certain come-hither menace. Is she trying to hitch a ride from Arnold Schwarzenegger or dancing under a bad moon rising in the Sunni Triangle?
4. You gotta love her style. It’s like if Carmen Miranda went on tour with Elton John in 1979. And the hair — defiantly big and blowsy, as if to say, ‘I’ll straighten my nose before I straighten my hair. And that ain’t happening, Jack.’ Besides, she’s got more records than the KGB. So no funny business.
5. The novelty of every song wrapped in rubbery dub wore thin pretty quickly, not that M.I.A. and crew were to blame, really. The house always wins. In fact, I would submit that she was even fiercer than when I saw her last fall, when she was demonstrably wan and knackered from the tour she was just wrapping up. Last night she was one fire, unfortunately the venue was under water.
TEXT BY JONATHAN VALANIA/PHOTOS BY TIFFANY YOON