M.I.A., Brixton Academy, London

4.00

It doesn't take much to impress the impressionable. When you take a glance at M.I.A.'s CV over the past six years, her musical credentials have never quite added up. Still, much kudos to her for sustaining a cult appeal built on her distinctive brand of rebel music and art-school airs. Rappers like T.I. and Kanye West love her, the Dazed & Confused set want to be her.

She records the sort of albums which are more contentious than Marmite, but she still manages to command respect, and can boast of Grammy and Oscar nominations, not to mention a well-connected husband, a baby boy and enviable artistic freedom. "I'm big-timer, it's the bamboo-banger!" screams the 35-year-old, as she rapidly swings around the kufiya headdress she was draped in only moments earlier to take to the stage. She's a rowdy performer too, and much of tonight's intoxicating show involves her rapping and dancing like a teenager half her age, alongside two dancers one suspects were plucked right out of an underground rave in Shoreditch.

Dressed in a kaleidoscopic outfit and backed by a female DJ and drummer, she brings tomboyish charm to the infectious and bass-heavy beats of "Illy Girl" and "World Town". The former song is a reminder of her political allegiances and she whimsically raps, "I know Billie Jean, I know Bruce Springsteen, I also know Palestine and Mujahideen", but it's much to the ignorance of this crowd, who seem more concerned with getting their party on. Even the multi-coloured press-conference style podium upstage seems to go to waste. She goes behind it between songs, but rather than launching into a tirade about technological conspiracies – which she does on "The Message" – or updating us on the plight of the Tamil Tigers, it looks more like she's checking her set list.

It's widely accepted that M.I.A.'s musical politicising can and should be taken lightly. She regularly takes her cue from the nonsensical ramblings of Missy Elliott, layers her lyrics with unbridled sexuality, and sets out simply to give people a good time. Party music is her forte. When she performs "Bucky Done Gun", "XR2" and "Galang", and starts to throw down her best dancehall moves, the crowd are with her. She responds by immersing herself in the front row, while a bodyguard stands cautiously behind, and extends her gratitude further by inviting a number of punters on stage for the body-rocking "Boyz", from 2007's Kala. The mood only dips slightly when she decides to sing "It Takes a Muscle" from her most recent album, /\/\/\Y/\ – she's a much better rapper – but this is quickly rectified by a swooping rendition of "Story to Be Told" and an ear-splitting performance of "Born Free", rounded up with a swift middle finger in the air. "I throw this in your face when I see you, 'cause I got something to say!" she quips.

Much to the dismay of her followers, who would have happily stayed until the early morning, the show wraps up with the Oscar-nominated "Paper Planes", better known as the Slumdog Millionaire theme. Considering she's recorded three albums, it's a pity that she only performs for just over an hour. Then again, there's not much Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam can't get away with.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits