by RYAN BOLTON

And the show starts with M.I.A. being, er, MIA. The internationally acclaimed electronic shock rocker is late. M.I.A.’s tour DJ comes on stage to let the crowd know she’s running behind and starts spinning some floor-vibrating beats to get the crowd to “vibe out and start dancing.” It works.

Some 20 minutes later, M.I.A. hits the stage. Playing the undesirable Sound Academy last night, Maya Arulpragasam is on her second night of her fall international tour for her third album, /\/\/\Y/\ (Maya). With a multi-layered get-up that was slowly shed to reveal a black “Fuck Google, Ask Me” T-shirt and sunglasses, M.I.A., a recent mother, had three back-up singers in full burkas. She does like the controversy, even though the message comes off as overly contrived all-too often. And to stoke the fire more, she had two redhead-looking b-boy dancers allowing her to play off her controversial, YouTube-censored ginger-genocide video for “Born Free.”

But M.I.A. is very much a performer. She has her character-shtick-real-life-persona very much on lock. And she’s damn good at it. She let the well-informed crowd know of her anti-authority and anti-consumerist ideals at various points, once yelling: “I don’t give a fuck if no one buys my shit, it should be free!” Meanwhile the crowd threw down $40-75 to be at the show.

Hitting the stage to the new, danceable “Illygirl” she had the audience’s arms in the air. And she kept them there. But it was when the DJ switched to the past catalogue of smash-up, eclectic hits – Arular (2005) andKala (2007) – that the audience lost themselves. It was evident when the rowdy anthem “World Town” hit the diverse crowd that the mood changed. And talk about a diverse crowd – I was standing amongst hip-hop kids, indie rockers, a couple punks, club-ready girls and some suits in the $75-a-pop VIP. Then again, Toronto is a true “World Town.”

Read the rest of the story on blogTO, with photography by Matthew McAndrew.

Written by Ryan Bolton

Ryan is a Toronto-based writer and photographer that likes to break the rules. His work has taken him around the world to do what he truly loves—storytelling. And drinking cold beer.

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