M.I.A. / Diplo The Drake Hotel, Toronto ON - February 2

M.I.A. / Diplo The Drake Hotel, Toronto ON - February 2
While much praise was written about M.I.A.'s two stellar 2004 singles ("Galang" and "Sunshowers") and of course, the infamously tough to purchase Piracy Funds Terrorism bootleg with Diplo, very little was known about her live performances. Before her debut Canadian performance, she had only played a handful of gigs, setting the stage for an exclusive early glimpse at a superstar in the making. Scheduled for an upcoming opening slot on Roots Manuva's UK tour, M.I.A. found time to hit three cities in North America. Though the size of the venue hinted that the performance was aimed towards an industry crowd, there was no doubting the anticipation flowing through the blood of the lucky concertgoers. Diplo prepped the venue with a quick DJ set filled with mashed-up hip-hop, dancehall and ragga that had the place shaking, even luring a couple of girls onstage to give the onlookers a thrill during the wait. In a sparkling blue and gold jumpsuit, the pint-sized MC hit the stage promptly with her b-girl back-up singer in check. With animated fighter planes, bombs and tigers circulating on the screen behind her, M.I.A. began with the grimy anti-war anthem "Pull Up The People," feeding all of the moving bodies in front of her. Introducing "Sunshowers" as the "issues song," she rocked the electro-dancehall beat effortlessly, again receiving back-up from her singer on the chorus. Asking if the crowd was ready, she jumped into "Galang" earlier than expected, getting the biggest reaction of the night from the enthused viewers. Exiting the stage for a wardrobe change, she left Diplo hanging a little longer than he expected, forcing him to replay the intro to "Bucky Done Gun" about five times before she came back to deliver her chants (including Toronto in the shout outs). Closing the 40-minute set with "Pop," — her bastardisation of Dead Prez's "Hip Hop" — she left the vigorous crowd bumping and thumping to the thick bass. Despite her inexperience with moving onstage and a few miscues with Diplo, catching this premier showcase by M.I.A. will easily go down as one of the "should have been there" events of 2005. Next time we see her it will be a whole new ballgame.