live music review: sia, thebarton theatre, february 8 2011
Music journalism is not the arena of glamour you might think it is. You get to do some things that are, categorically, ‘cooler’ than most jobs, but it also involves a lot of sucking up, doing favours for people you’ve never met and reviewing bands you don’t like.
I’m sure some music writers get into it by accident but for most, it’s because they love music. Because hearing something on a promo CD that’s on the cusp of brilliance makes you feel like a disenchanted traveller who’s just discovered something new in Paris. Because people who are choosing to pursue the arts as their vocation throw their talents in the face of realism because they want to be heard, and because live music, at its best, tingles every one of your senses and makes you feel simultaneously tranquil and alive.
Something I have not come to expect from these pursuits, however, is hilarity. And yet, without wanting to detract from her performance, it is the laughter that Sia readily evokes from her crowd that truly makes her stand out from her peers.
That, and the fact that she is painted black.
Sia’s set begins with crowd favourites (just two of many), The Fight and Buttons, followed by the eccentric and endearing banter and childlike twirling of her tutu, that we will all come to know and love by the end of the night.
One of Adelaide’s best known exports, Sia appropriately warms up the crowd with some jokes about city’s insular nature, warning us that she will be forgetting lyrics all night because every time she looks into the crowd, she sees someone she knows.
Having initially found success through ‘Colour the Small One’, an album that displayed Sia’s intense jazz-esque vocals against a background of sweeping and mellow music, as well as collaborations with notoriously ambient duo, Zero 7, Sia’s latest album, ‘Clap Your Hands’, was surprisingly upbeat, despite the lyrics of some songs being fueled by the same sentiments heard on previous offerings. Nonetheless, between the cheerful tone of many of her newer songs and wonderfully colourful stage set, I didn’t expect to hear much of Sia’s older work, but her seamless slips between emotionally loaded songs and casual chatting were astounding.
In particular, her execution of Breathe Me, a much-loved song that exudes vulnerability through its perfect amalgamation of haunting beauty and overarching anxiety, leaves the crowd silent, but its place amongst all the kitsch costumes and tapestries (that she tells us were created by hipsters in Williamsburg, Brooklyn) is a true testament to her abilities as a performer.
Right through to the very end, she charmed and entertained the audience, signing her way through Soon We’ll Be Found à la the video clip, and aptly describing her feelings about encores being written into the set, saying her management insisted she do one so as to not deprive the crowd of their climactic moment. After assuring anyone who might be anxious about it that they would be coming back out, whilst encouraging anyone who wasn’t to clap loudly, Sia and her band re-emerged to perform Clap Your Hands, with the woman of the night wearing wings that blew bubbles out into the crowd.
However you might feel about Sia’s music, her stage presence is one that is impossibly likeable. It may not be enough to draw you to one of her shows if you’re not a fan, but if you are, she will delight you with her tutu and her tunes.
(Image credit: William Morris.)