1. Ten minutes before M.I.A.’s scheduled start time, the Cosmo’s outdoor venue is only half full. More than an hour goes by before the Matangi mogul appears in an oversized highlighter-yellow shirt (with leopard print, of course) and bold, neon-striped stockings.
2. Had M.I.A. shown up “on time,” a lot of people would have missed the show. Instead, the deck is crowded when she starts slinging her acid-tongued lyrics on “Bucky Done Gun.” Maybe that’s why she waited.
3. M.I.A.’s backup dancers are fierce as hell, and they can sing, too. Between afro-pop dance moves and enthusiastic crowd work, one dancer bursts into the catchy, summery hook from “Sunshowers” off 2005 debut Arular. Ten years later, it still sounds fresh.
4. Dance party onstage! “Excuse me, Mr. Bouncer, can you get those girls?” M.I.A. instructs, and audience members are plucked to join her onstage. For a moment the scene looks scary, with the barricade between crowd and stage appearing like it might tip over—and one boy flipping over the railing and landing on his head. But he pops up and rushes in on what ends up a huge, happy dance-off.
5. “Turn it up!” M.I.A. yells to her DJ, who triggers the sounds of lasers and the cha-ching! of cash registers. The body-rattling bass kicks in for two of the Sri Lankan singer’s biggest hits, “Galang” and “Paper Planes,” and the crowd breaks into a sea of dance-y clusters. One of the best audiences—and wildest Cosmo shows—I’ve experienced to date.