M.I.A. / Let’s Go To War / Top Billin Edmonton Events Centre, Edmonton AB May 27

Gunshots and cash registers have been in music before — think Pink Floyd’s "Money” and pretty much every 50 Cent song. But only globetrotter M.I.A. actually uses these sampled sounds as proxy lyrics on "Paper Planes.” It’s the best moment on Kala and it played well in Edmonton — much better than her opening slot for Gwen Stefani a couple years back. Fittingly futuristically, we were encouraged to sway not our lighters, but our cell phones during this heartbreaking song. And while Maya sang it a little off-key just this once, the concert was a total, sweaty smash. In a lovely twist on chauvinistic hip-hop culture, for example, she crammed the stage with dudes during "Boys,” asking how many are crazy, how many are wrong, climbing all the way up on the speaker stack like a beautiful little brown spider, kicking her tiny legs out as she rapped. The tabloids even had something to leech onto as she first announced her engagement to Ben Brewer of the Exit, saying we’re all one big Canadian family now. Accusations of lip-syncing could easily be explained by the fact M.I.A. had a drop-dead backup singer layering her every word. From up close, which she got several times, you could hear her real voice, twisting words into pretzels on "Bucky Done Gun.” In the background, her bizarre, Magic-Eye-poster design sense strobed relentlessly on the big screen as she hit all the right notes of Arular and Kala — two albums you maybe somehow don’t own yet? Before the UK singer appeared in her bird plumage, Lets Go To War kicked off the night with charmingly "stooped” stoner rap, and then Finland’s Top Billin tortured us for about an hour of mash DJing, taking photos of girls dancing and yelling non-sequiturs in broken English. Despite that, it was tight. Few acts have the sort of wildness and energy of M.I.A., and she shares it like Robin Hood.