We had an inkling that M.I.A.’s upcoming European tour might be in trouble — perhaps it was when she announced its cancellation from the stage at McCarren Park Pool on Friday — but last night, amid apparent confusion by her record-label reps, she confirmed it to us: It’s definitely off.
“This is my last show. I cancelled the U.K. tour,” she said before performing at the MoMA’s 40th annual benefit “Party in the Garden.” “Nobody knows,” she went on. “This is it. You’re hearing it first. My manager was supposed to cancel it yesterday, but he was watching football — don’t tell anyone — and he forgot. So nobody knows. I guess now they will.” M.I.A.’s concert schedule includes more than just stops in the U.K., but it seemed pretty clear she was referring to all subsequent tour dates. (No word yet on whether Bonnaroo on June 13 is included — mostly because we were reeling too much to ask.)
Is she worried about a fan revolt? No, she said. She thought they’d understand: “I’m canceling because I feel like physically I just have to stop for a second,” she said. “It’s too insane. I was losing a sense of just, like, reality, you know what I mean? I think for an artist like me, it’s so important for me to be in the streets and go to the same shop every day and see the same people and, like, communicate. And it’s really difficult to do that when you’re in the city every day for 24 hours. Like, I love connecting with my band, but I want to actually help them and be a part of peoples’ lives. Which is really hard when you’re on tour.”
Also, she said, touring is really hard: “It takes a lot out of you, physically. I make club music, which means I’m clubbing every night for, like, six months. Know what I mean? So now and again you finally just want to be gardening and get your nails done or something like that.”
And she confirmed our suspicions that she’s extremely uncomfortable being the center of attention. “I’m an artist and it’s really difficult when you become the art, and you’re like, ‘Look at me!’ every day,” she said. “I was never supposed to be like that. I’m eight things [painter, film director, musician, etc.], and I’ve figured out that you can get pleasure from being all of them, and that’s great. But I don’t want to be the thing. And that’s what touring is.” She went on. “ Music is about people,” she said. “It is a party. But I never became a musician because I wanted to be famous, or I’m an extrovert and stuff like that. The touring part came last. Like, I already signed a record deal, put my record out, and did everything. My first-ever time standing onstage singing was already six months into my, like, contract and stuff, which is unheard of. No one does that. But I was just really petrified. It scared the shit out of me.”
M.I.A. says she has no plans to make up her canceled dates. But she hasn’t forgotten her fans; she just wants to reward them a different way. “I’ve been writing on tour. I’m really into writing new songs,” she said. “I’m going to put out a new record instead. At the end of the day, I’m here, you know.” —Jada Yuan
Earlier: M.I.A. Nearly Undone by Democratic Impulses at McCarren Pool