M.I.A. at Riviera Theatre

The provocative pop star raises the roof, spirits…and a middle finger at the NFL
 (Photograph: Max Herman)
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Photograph: Max HermanM.I.A plays to a packed house at the Riviera Theatre on May 1st, 2014.
 (Photograph: Max Herman)
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Photograph: Max HermanM.I.A plays to a packed house at the Riviera Theatre on May 1st, 2014.
 (Photograph: Max Herman)
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Photograph: Max HermanM.I.A plays to a packed house at the Riviera Theatre on May 1st, 2014.
 (Photograph: Max Herman)
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Photograph: Max HermanM.I.A plays to a packed house at the Riviera Theatre on May 1st, 2014.
 (Photograph: Max Herman)
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Photograph: Max HermanM.I.A plays to a packed house at the Riviera Theatre on May 1st, 2014.
 (Photograph: Max Herman)
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Photograph: Max HermanM.I.A plays to a packed house at the Riviera Theatre on May 1st, 2014.
 (Photograph: Max Herman)
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Photograph: Max HermanM.I.A plays to a packed house at the Riviera Theatre on May 1st, 2014.
 (Photograph: Max Herman)
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Photograph: Max HermanM.I.A plays to a packed house at the Riviera Theatre on May 1st, 2014.
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M.I.A. joined forces with A$AP Ferg to play a packed Riviera Theatre last night.

A$AP Ferg opened the show, performing songs from his album Trap Lord and free styling. His hype man Marty Baller joined him onstage for most of the set and was introduced as one of the newest members of the A$AP Mob. Ferg also invited up Chicago's Sicko Mobb to come perform its single “Fiesta,” which Ferg recently remixed, and a random audience member to show his mic skills were made of. The Harlem native got the crowd heated to a boil, body surfing and all, before asking if we were ready for “the culture queen.” According to the guy out of his seat and air grinding, we were.

M.I.A. emerged onstage in a baggy orange jumpsuit with a matching oversized jacket, which she later referred to as her “prison suit.” Complete with backup dancers and singer Cherry, the provocateur born Mathangi Arulpragasam performed songs from Arular, Kala, Maya and her most recent, Matangi.

The British–Sri Lankan firecracker constantly interacted with audience members. Whether she was standing on the barricade letting fans sing along, leaping into the throng, or inviting girls onstage to dance to “Bad Girls” alongside her, she kept the energy high and the house swaying. Before performing “U.R.A.Q.T.”, M.I.A. took a moment to relish the diversity of the crowd, “It’s nice to see so many different faces, Chicago. You all look like you come from places all over the world.” Her music similarly mixes culturals, lacing bhangra, gaana and other South Asian genres with electric beats.

However controversial, M.I.A. has been able to maintain a strong fan base, with one girl even crawling atop bodies for a chance to get on the stage. There’s a respect due to a performer who really doesn’t give a shit, who encourages middle-fingers, has meaning in her music and combines it all into songs that you can dance to.

She took a moment to mention her lawsuit with the NFL, remarking that she can have charges dropped if she publicly apologizes. The singer asked the crowd to vote with cheers on whether or not she should apologize. Not surprisingly, the audience roared at the option of not apologizing.

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