MIA with LCD SOUNDSYSTEM and DIPLO at the Opera House, May 21. Tickets: $20. Attendance: sold out. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
No surprise that MIA and LCD Soundsystem sold out quickly, considering the huge buzz behind both. So why did Emerge book them in a venue like the Opera House, which is very uncomfortable when it's this packed? Besides, the staff seemed unprepared for the crowd.
The stairs between levels on the main floor were so completely crammed during MIA's set that it took a security guard several minutes of pushing to get past. During the break between acts, hundreds of smokers found themselves squished in the lobby, since the club wasn't allowing any more people onto the patio and also doesn't offer in-and-out privileges, despite the hand stamps.
Sure, it's a dirty habit, but it also meant that nobody could get a much-needed breath of fresh air between acts unless they forfeited seeing the headliner, LCD Soundsystem. A significant portion of the audience did decide to leave halfway through, and it was much more comfortable for the rest of us for the last half. Whether that's a testament to MIA's popularity or to the sweltering claustrophobia of the Opera House remains to be decided.
On the bright side, the Opera House sound system is sounding much better than it used to, allowing both MIA and LCD Soundsystem to deliver what their hype promised. MIA was backed by Diplo on the turntables and backup singer Cherry, but the show was all about her.
It's not a polished extravaganza. There's a video projection of MIA's trademark spray-paint animation, and both she and Cherry do lazy versions of dancehall reggae moves, but there are no synchronized routines and there's very little between-song talk. She actually comes across as a little bit shy onstage, but that was no problem for 90 per cent of the audience, who were either dancing or screaming or both. The set was short, but, as she explained apologetically, she does only have one album.
LCD Soundsystem were raw, loud and sloppy. James Murphy is much more comfortable in front of an audience than MIA, and his stage patter was really pretty funny. Since they're an actual band, there was more to look at performance-wise, but despite the higher level of energy onstage, the audience seemed much more ready to get down to MIA's mutated dancehall than to Murphy's snotty disco punk.