Concert Review: Sia, April 28, Phoenix Concert Theatre

Toronto – There is a pretty serious side to Sia Furler. Her first love died in a car accident. She speaks openly in interviews and on her popular Twitter account about all the therapy she’s been through. She’s become an icon in the LGBT community after she came out about dating girls and being bisexual. Her best known tune, “Breathe Me,” is a real heartbreaker, and her first two albums, Healing is Difficult (2000) and Colour the Small One (2004) are deeply introspective.

None of this is really evident in her live show, as Sia is easily the cutest, most adorable stage presence I’ve ever seen. The Australian singer popped up onstage at the Phoenix on April 28 with what she called a “light up penis” on her head and proceeded to bounce through an hour and a half set heavy with tunes from her more recent and upbeat albums Some People Have Real Problems from 2008 and We Are Born, set to be released next month.

While my companion and I arrived at the Phoenix well after the doors opened and with little interest in seeing the opener, heartlessly disregarding Wade’s advice back in February to be sure to do so, we somehow were there a few minutes before Dance Yourself To Death took the stage anyway. And yes, Wade was right, as he so frequently is. Despite playing with unfamiliar instruments due to European travel problems and a sound mix that left the vocals too quiet, DYTD managed a tight, energetic set, highlighted by the track “White Bed” and punctuated by the guitarist running around the stage and jumping off a speaker during their last tune. Dance Yourself To Death are a lot of fun, and I would recommend checking out the sample songs on their MySpace page.

Sia is also a lot of fun, but occasionally seemed a little unfocussed and silly. She messed up the beginning of one song, for instance, and rather than start over she unsuccessfully tried to jump back into the tune as the band kept playing several times before letting her guitarist sing the first half. But it’s impossible to stay mad at this pixie-like singer with the big voice and the infectious giggle. In between songs, Sia accepted small gifts like silly sunglasses and homemade t-shirts from members of the crowd with delight. At one point she introduced her four-man backing band by thoughtfully complimenting each one of them (“you give the best massages” she said to one. Another got “you’re one of the most sensitive people I’ve ever known” and another “you’re one of the best friends I’ve ever had”). She also cursed like a sailor, repeatedly asked the crowd to heckle her, told a story about one of her dogs peeing on the carpet of her hotel, and came out for her encore with two large bubble-blowing wheels strapped to her back.

This being my first exposure to Sia’s newest work We Are Born, which comes out on June 7, I would venture that it sounds a fair bit like the happier moments of Some People Have Real Problems, which Sia herself has said was a intentional departure from her earlier two albums, when she described herself as a “downtempo artist.” Now, I have a personal taste for downtempo music, and on record I like a lot of Sia’s earlier work better. On stage, however, she’s much more suited to the upbeat stuff that dominated her set. The only real misstep, other than the aforementioned lyrics space-out, was her cover of “I Go To Sleep,” a nice enough if somewhat sleepy tune that wasn’t well placed in the set list and drained some energy from the show. Some tunes I did recognize and enjoyed from her setlist were “Little Black Sandals,” “The Girl you Lost to Cocaine,” “You’ve Changed,” and “Breathe Me,” her last song before the encore that was warmly welcomed by the crowd as the one Sia song we definitely all knew.

Sia might be a little goofy on stage sometimes, but her songs and voice reveal a depth and range of feeling that few can match. Much as we all liked “Breathe Me,” a sad and wistful tune, it’s Sia’s adorable stage presence we’ll all remember most. I think Sia prefers it that way.

Posted on by Brian in Concerts