Canadian Music Week 2014 kicked off last night in Toronto at the Tattoo Parlor with a performance by M.I.A., whose nonstop dance party performance rewarded the 400 people who were lucky to snag an entry wristband into the intimate show.
The 20-minute delay did not deter the high-energy of those in attendance, as M.I.A.’s prolonged entrance was set against the instrumental take of“Story To Be Told”. The U.K. rapper made her way onto the stage to perform “Bucky Done Gun”, dressed in a long white coat and a jumpsuit, as the audience waved their hands in the air and threw some ratchet moves on the dance floor. The last-minute decision by CMW to scale back the large Yonge-Dundas Square performance to an intimate buzzing Toronto venue proved to be the best way to experience the artist’s non-stop wave of hits and EDM/hip-hop infused remixes, backed by flickering strobe lights and tri-colour alternating pinwheel stage décor.
M.I.A. skipped performing songs from her experimental third album, Maya, to deliberately uphold the unique club setting, despite that she promised earlier to perform “Teqkilla”. She satisfied fans and delivered exciting renditions of her dancehall and bhangra-charged electronic tracks from her first two albums, Arular and Kala , including “Sunshowers”, “Boyz”, “World Town” and “Hussle”; the crowd’s enthusiasm motivated M.I.A. to swing her arms into the audience and dance and jump harder on stage. She curated a sense of familiarity and consistency in her hour-long performance and integrated her older material with new songs like the blaring “Bring the Noize” and the reggae-inspired “Double Bubble Trouble” from her latest album Matangi,.
Although the gig’s relocation disappointed throngs of Toronto fans, the sweaty, energetic atmosphere created an intimacy that enabled M.I.A. to cut loose, as she escaped the stage to “cool down” at the bar and perform “Galang”, or talking amongst her fans as she led the charge on one of her biggest hits, “Paper Planes”. Perhaps these conditions reminded M.I.A. of her first performance in Toronto, which she recalled last night as she dedicated her music to her old-school fans who showed up to the Drake Hotel all those years ago.
Regardless of the platform, M.I.A. is fearless when it comes to her voice and her artistry. “You are the new generation, Canada. Don’t be lazy. Don’t become the United States,” she advised before launching into “Y.A.L.A.”, which quickly moved fans from social and political thinking to creating a dance pit that rivaled an EDM crowd. Sound issues plagued the end of the set and her perfectionism compelled her to conclude the show with three run-throughs of“Bad Girls”, twice in the audience, one attempt of which was a capella, and a third time on stage. For some, her perfectionism may have teetered on tedium, but getting to hear one of M.I.A.’s best songs three times in a row was just an added bonus for fans at an intimate, exclusive gathering, and set an early highlight at this year’s Canadian Music Week.
Swedish singer-rapper Elliphant’s reggae and electronic sound has drawn comparisons to M.I.A. and affiliated producer Diplo, and she was a perfect opener for the equally eclectic M.I.A. last night in Toronto. Her set drew from her 2013 release, A Good Idea, and her recently released EP, Look Like You Love It. Although many audience members were not familiar with Elliphant, they quickly took to her rapid-fire lyricism, infectious beats and enthusiastic performance. “I’m just warming up,” she said with a wide smile a few times during her half-hour set, which featured performances of “Revolusion”, “Music is Life”, and “Down On Life”. As the audience grew more engaged with her sound, Elliphant mirrored the energy and exclaimed “I know, I’m fuckin’ excited too!”capturing the anticipation for Maya’s performance to come.