Wave-making M.I.A. induces chaos despite a modest crowd at Tower Theater

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Back when Rihanna was still a bubbly pop star and Miley Cyrus was still Hannah Montana, there was another female rebel emerging on the scene, completely changing the game – and that was M.I.A. Emerging in 2004 with Piracy Funds Terrorism, an underground mixtape collaboratin with Diplo, M.I.A. really broke with the release of the stellar Arular in 2005. Before her, there was no female bridging the gap between rap, electronic and worldly beats, and a decade and a slew of controversial moves later, the British-Sri Lankan rapper is still here making waves.

On Friday evening M.I.A. made a stop at the Tower Theater in Upper Darby in support of her most recent album, Matangi. With some musical flops in recent years, I was hesitant about what the show would bring, especially given the thin crowd who showed up (to put it politely). Despite this, the Tower’s standing-room general admission area filled up nicely, and the energy in the room increased dramatically as M.I.A.’s start time drew closer, the mixed crowd of young fans chanting her name incessantly. Head to toe in a neon orange solid-colored sweatsuit, with hood up and shades on, M.I.A entered the stage, sat down at a table facing the crowd, and all hell broke loose.

With a lighting set-up nothing short of epileptic, and two dancers by her side all night, M.I.A. opened with the politically fueled track “The Message” off of Matangi. To my utter delight, the set was a fair mix of new and old music, the old including “U.R.A.Q.T” and “Amazon” from the 2005′s Arular, as well as “Bamboo Banga” and concluding with the easy crowd favorite “Paper Planes” from 2007′s Kala. The crowd reached major heights with the performance of “Y.A.L.A.”, a track from Matangi and a heavy favorite from the album, which is also featured on a Nissan commerical. M.I.A. was clearly vibing off of the energy of the room, who had all pushed up as close to the stage as humanly possible, shown when she invited all girls on stage for mixes of “Bad Girls” and “Born Free.”

The young, selfie-loving crowd provided palpable energy, and 38 year-old Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam matched it with power and flare, even stage diving into the center of the pit to everyone’s rampant delight. Despite the show ending by 10:30 p.m., it could have been the wee hours of the morning. All in all, no matter who or how many she’s performing for, M.I.A.’s still got it.

Below, check out a roundup of some of the best Instagrams from the show.

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