On Saturday night, the Sahara tent witnessed one of the all time great meltdowns in rock history. Ashlee Simpson's SNL hoedown has nothing on MIA's Coachella debacle. Never has an artist with so much to gain slipped so far in one performance.
Don't get me wrong; I'm still a fan. MIA has given us two of the most exciting albums of this decade. She still has the potential to go down as a great voice of the third world in an age when global capitalism rules the roost. But, Saturday's performance compromised the quality and safety of this great festival and for this she has lost a great deal of credibility.
I was so looking forward to watching a coronation. MIA's 2006 Coachella performance was almost completely void of the charisma she often shows in her recordings. She needed this to go down right.
And it couldn't have gone done more wrong. Something wasn't quite right from the moment the overweight, bearded guy in the zoot suit (we assume her manager) started barking orders during the setup. "Roadrunner" got the party started. But was it really MIA's job to go to her station every time she wanted a new song? Isn't that the DJ's job?
After song 3, for some unknown reason, MIA stepped stage right and asked if someone from the crowd wanted to "come on stage". That tuned into some diatribe against security and how she wanted "people on stage". The fans on stage left took their cue and the floodgates were open. The next thing we knew there were about 40 people on stage and another 40 waiting standing to the side waiting for their chance. One more song was played with fans and stage dancing and groping. MIA's backup singer thought that maybe order could be miraculously restored by throwing horns to the audience. Of course this didn't work and only turned a dangerous situation into a dangerous, noisier situation.
The house lights then came on so that the stage could be cleared, which, to the credit of security, they did in about 3 minutes. Of course, there is no more surefire formula for killing a vibe then turning on house lights during a show. MIA hadn't a clue what to do next. So she retreated to her station and tried to start another track. That tape loop ran for about 8 minutes with MIA insisting that the lights be turned off. Meanwhile, a once enthused audience was becoming increasingly bored (some of us really wished we had picked Kraftwerk). The bearded manager guy came on stage and started shouting at some other guy, but the lights stayed on. Finally the lights went off and MIA finished her last songs bringing the total setlist to 6 1/2 tunes.
So what did we learn from all this? We already know MIA is a musical genius. Now we know she is a completely incompetent stage performer. Can she ever be a global superstar with a voice for the third world? Or should she just stick to writing jingles for car commercials.