Last Night Coming Back With Power Power
posted by November 17 at 7:17 PMon
M.I.A. & Cool Kids @ Showbox Sodo
last Seattle show, opening for LCD Soundsystem two years ago (ok, not her last Seattle show, but the last time I went to a concert involving Gwen Stefani for the purpose of seeing the opening band was when the Faint opened for No Doubt at the Paramount [side note: Gwen Stefani picks kind of rad opening acts]), the conventional wisdom on M.I.A. was that her albums and artwork and fashion are all brilliant, but that her performances are kind of lukewarm. At that show, people seemed stoked enough to be finally seeing M.I.A. after scheduled Seattle debut at Chop Suey was cancelled months before that everyone was willing to forgive a not totally thrilling set (it wasn’t helped any by LCD Soundsystem’s overpowering live show). But her show last night erased any doubt—M.I.A. is the real fucking deal.
First, a few words about opening act Cool Kids. I called it American Apparel rap, Zwickel dubs it hipster hop, but under the gaudy dollar sign t-shirt aesthetic, it’s just good, old-fashioned party rap. So old-fashioned, in fact, that more than a couple people griped about how glaringly obvious all their ‘80s samples were (I didn’t actually spot anything, though, other than the lyrical drop “if your friends don’t then they’re no friends of mine”). They seemed fun, people who’d seen them before said they were good, but they were up against a big room and a slowly gathering but mostly apathetic crowd. Their attempts at a call and response resulted in their “whoo”s being answered by aweak, mostly inaudible “yeah”s, and a lot of their rhymes just got lost in the room. Someone said, “They seem really bored,” and it was hard to tell if the comment was directed at the band (who did seem a bit, well, cool) or the crowd. Their set ended suddenly, with no fanfare or goodbye, just the last song stopping. They seemed as awkward on that big stage as M.I.A. had been back at the Showbox, but I get the feelin they could rock a good party at a smaller venue like the War Room or Chop Suey.
After a too-long break, Low Budget finally took the stage behind the turntables, followed by white-spandex clad hype-girl Miss Cherry and then M.I.A., in frantic-patterned leggings and flat, oversized shades. M.I.A. owned the stage, exerting a cool confidence that was sorely lacking from her last Seattle appearance, and the crowd was stoked, dancing and pumping fists and screaming. Early hit “Sunshowers” started off a little weak, but Low Budget picked things up, dropping a new four four beat midway throught the song. “$20,” which sounds stoned and stunning on Kala came off a little weak live, but it was energized by this mixing in the synth beat from “Blue Monday” (from which “$20” takes it’s three note melody).
Later, the bass hits on “Bucky Done Gun” vibrated the whole hall, all the way back to the bar—it was some deep tissue sound waves. The sound was excellent throughout the set, and contrary to what I’d heard, the Showbox Sodo actually has a pretty nice ambiance for a room of it’s size and shape. For “Bird Flu,” M.I.A. pulled up the people, filling the stage with audience members—it was girls only at first (righteous shades of Bikini Kill), but a some dudes got in on the act (which I guess is also shades of Bikini Kill). The crowd held up lighters and cell phones for the woozy smash “Paper Planes,” some pointed finger pistols in the air for the gunshot-riddled chorus (for more in depth “Paper Planes” analysis, check here). On the video projection behind M.I.A. (which was a dazzling, techno-color explosion throughout the show), 8-bit neon paper planes flew and folded around paper rad Super Mario clouds. The song was a definite highlight from a thoroughly killer set. M.I.A. not only earned the sometimes dubious honor of most improved live show, she put on one of the best shows of the year period.