M.I.A. brings out the beautiful people.
Tuesday night, the British-Sri Lankan rapper celebrated the release of her new album, Matangi, with a party and concert (part of SPIN and Soho House's Satellite Nights series) in Brooklyn's hipper-than-thou 'hood Bushwick (just blocks from where Arcade Fire performed in October). The occasion brought the creative elite out to play: Beastie Boys' Mike D, "Royals" singer Lorde, Vampire Weekend's Rostam Batmanglij, Das Racist rapper-gone-solo Heems, afro'd comedian Reggie Watts, fashion designers Alexander Wang and Timo Weiland and more gulped free drinks and mingled with the stylish, leggy-model-packed crowd.
The venue, a massive raw warehouse in an industrial area, was transformed into three rooms: a concert venue with M.I.A.'s new album cover art projected on the walls; a lounge with goth-library decor, including lamps, coffee tables, books and swanky crush velvet couches, where Henna artists dressed in traditional Sri Lankan saris provided free body art; and an outdoor smoking area, which remained packed the entire night. Expensive black leather jackets and cigarette smoke abounded.
M.I.A. finally arrived around 12:30 A.M., and the stage lit up and sonic blitzkrieg commenced. The name of her just-released fourth album, Matangi, glowed in neon green above, and three circular light installations fired off like short-circuiting ferris wheels. A drummer, keyboardist and backup dancers worked it to the high BPMs, while M.I.A. spit over bass so low and so loud it literally rattled chests.
Over 40 some minutes she performed a handful of tracks old and new, including "Galang," "XR2" and Matangi gems "Bring in the Noize," "Bad Girls," and "Y.A.L.A." More pop-friendly than its grinding predecessor, the Matangi tracks attack with the hyper-percussive, multi-cultural sound patchwork the 38-year-old Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam became famous for, but this time with a "spiritual" bent; she name-checks Hindu goddesses over skronky hip hop and Bollywood production.
The room exploded, though, with "Paper Planes," M.I.A.'s most-recognizable hit to date. The audience danced under a sea of cellphones, as M.I.A., wearing a red sweatshirt with a sideways ball cap, stunted all over the stage: "If you catch me at the border I got visas in my name," she rapped.
Then both she and much of the crowd raised their hands in unison, forming a handgun with two fingers out and thumbs up, and unloaded the night's big moment: "BANG BANG BANG BANG!) / And (KKKAAAA CHING!)"