Maya Arulpragasam makes the Gaza Strip sound tame by comparison. Amidst a frenetic, ambitious, and sometimes brain-jarringly chaotic set that ran the gamut from the Tamil-Brit's very first sonic fusillade ("Galang") to bloodthirsty new single "Born Free," M.I.A. held sway by virtue of sheer, sweaty, street-cred charisma. Even when the massively distorted loops of percussive agitprop grated eardrums ("XXXO"), threatening to throw her maddeningly unfocused performance into a state of noisy, chronic disarray, "The Message" was clear: M.I.A. wants to both blow and free your mind, and she's not particularly concerned whether your ass follows or not (it does, though, more often than not). Trading on her political opacity and an ability to smash together borderless beats with the insistent, overblown, and by now hallmark use of more prerecorded automatic weapons fire than anyone since Terminator X, the Saturday headliner's showing was less recognizably a concert than a mad happening from the heart of big-beat hell. "Bamboo Banga" roiled – predictably powerful and loaded with cordite soulfulness – despite clashing video imagery that recalled bad acid trippery-meets-M.I.A.'s bewildering sense of post-mash-up style. No surprise that "Paper Planes," with its 9mm-goes-bang hookiness and darkening, doom-dance vibe, was the most incendiary track unleashed. Amidst the ongoing aftershocks of global implosion, M.I.A. retains a prescient, funky swagger to burn, even if sometimes her live bomb's a dud.
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