M.I.A. pulls up the people on the Coachella main stage
British-born Sri Lankan music maverick Maya Arulpragasm performs her song "Bingo" of her first album, "Arular", at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California.
The artist was added later on to the original lineup after event organizers discovered headliner Amy Winehouse couldn't play the festival because she had to appear in court in the UK.
"They tried to make me do the Oscars. I said no, no, no," she crooned to the tune of Winehouse's song "Rehab," assuring fans that she hadn't sold out.
Last year at Coachella, M.I.A.'s show was a fascinating meltdown of air-raid sirens, gunshots (sampled, not "live," thankfully) and disjointed scraps of songs wedged between M.I.A.'s shouted demands that somebody dim the lights. It seemingly scrambled parts of the crowd so bad that a near-riot broke out and security shut down the Sahara Tent show.
Well, this year, Maya Arulpragasam, a new mother and a late-addition replacement for the visa-challenged Amy Winehouse, put on a marginally less chaotic set that nevertheless still befuddled many in the crowd, despite some enthralling and hilarious moments.
So much of her show exists on the fault line between performance art and disaster -- one moment it might seem a brilliant challenge to the standard concert performance where one's hits are dispensed with rehearsed passion. And then the next moment comes and you think, "What on earth is going on here?"
Wearing enough florescent color to make a crossing guard jealous, M.I.A. and her team of hype people, including protégé Rye Rye, who sang and rapped on many songs, stalked the stage, the omnipresent air-raid siren used as punctuation or threat but mostly for comedic effect. As the Grammys proved all too well, M.I.A. is a charming presence on stage -- deadpan, unflappable and unpredictable.