For those Los Angelenos who anticipated M.I.A.'s local stop, only to have their hopes dashed by the cancellation of HARDfest, we offer you a bit of solace. Last night, M.I.A. performed her song “Born Free” on the Late Show with David Letterman, which featured the esteemed noisemaker Martin Rev from Suicide, backup singers in psychedelic burkas and a stage populated with M.I.A. impostors. Although M.I.A.'s chat with the New York Times painted her as an artist with confused politics, this frenetic performance is carefully focused and loaded with statements. By bringing Martin Rev on stage to play the keyboard riff of “Ghost Rider,” which M.I.A. sampled for the main hook of “Born Free,” she diffuses the criticism by haters who accused her of exploiting the music of Suicide. Then by filling the stage with look-alikes–as a thinly veiled dig on her sound-alikes–she takes the attention off of herself and redirects it to the song, which is spastic, repetitive, and, in it's own way, punk. Or maybe she's nervous about being a front person, or maybe lip-synching. Regardless, this is a spectacle worth seeing.

After the jump get a taste of what M.I.A. has up her neon sleeves.

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