FIVE years since gracing Australian stages, Sia has made a monumental come back with a performance like no other- transforming Melbourne’s AAMI Park into a brooding arthouse. After critical success touring North America, the Nostalgic For The Present Tour saw the Adelaide born singer play her first arena concert, the first of three performance to come in her Australian/New Zealand 2017 tour.
Headlining an all-female line-up, Sia brought together a powerful support act made up of Charli XCX, MØ and Amy Shark. Almost stealing the show, each one dominated in their own way. Amy with her angelic voice and down to earth persona, Charli XCX with her bubbly fun act that heavily channelled Drake, and the absolute bombshell that was MØ. Seriously that girl can roll her body in ways I didn’t know possible. We’d be here all day if I went into each act separately, but if you haven’t already, check out these ladies’ tracks – each one of them has something special and deserve their own arena tour. With such a tantalising support line up the crowd was ready and pumping, patient waiting for Sia to hit the stage.
The curtain rose and Sia’s silhouette was illuminated in the centre of the stage, wearing a huge ruffled white dress, signature oversized bow and a black and white wig that covered the majority of her face. Only if you looked closely, could you see her blood red lips behind the mic. She stood on a stark white platform with a bare back drop. No props. No band. Just a shadow in a tumbling white dress.
As soon as the music started and the silhouette unleashed her vocals, the dress came apart to reveal a small dancer who emerged to the tune of “Alive”. Pouncing around the stage like an elastic band it could only be one person, 14 year old Maddie Ziegler.
After staring in five of Sia’s music videos, not only has Ziegler become Sia’s signature mini me but she’s also captivated the world with her astonishing skills. I’ve never seen anyone dance like her. The way she stretches her body through to each chord, literally bringing music to life…it’s incredible. It’s because of Ziegler’s dancing that I spent the first quarter of the show duped.
On either side of the stage there were huge screens. At first it looked like the screens were showing what was happening live on stage, however the film quality was way too good to be live. But Ziegler was mirroring everything that happened on the screen…to the absolute tee! “Surely it’s live,” I thought. But as the show progressed it was apparent it couldn’t be live, specifically when Paul Dano came on screen. “Well that’s definitely not Paul Dano on stage,” I thought.
After the first song, Sia moved to a rear corner of the stage and literally did not move or speak for the rest of the set. Only sang. Don’t get me wrong her vocals were amazing! And yes doing this isolated her vocals and made them stand out. But, honestly, the dancers stole the show (which maybe was the point?). Each song had a pre-recorded choreographed vignette that was duplicated by several different dancers on stage. As well as Paul Dano (who featured for “Bird Set Free”), the videos included other celebrity cameos from the likes of Tig Notaro in the song “Diamonds”, (originally released by Rihanna, but written by Sia), Gaby Hoffman in “Unstoppable” and Kristen Wiig in “One Million Bullets”.
Each song replicated a story, an emotion, a feeling, and a moment in time. Sia physically kept herself hidden, but put her soul on full display. With the set drawing to a close, hit tracks “Titanium” and “Chandelier” had the audience erupt into a massive singalong, and touching on older tracks like “Breathe Me” made long-time fans scream their hearts out. She momentarily left the stage and in unison the crowd yelled, “No, there has to be more!” And she came back on for a mammoth display of “The Greatest”, which proved to be the highlight of the night.
The performance could be summarised as a beautifully orchestrated art show. But this is my dilemma. Did fans come to see an art show or a pop concert? If you came to see a pop concert you would have been disappointed. For me personally, I was distracted by the screens. I spent too much time trying to analyse the meaning behind the stories, that I forgot I was at a live concert. Sometimes I would be so entranced by the dancers that I’d forget Sia was there hiding in the shadows. I think this type of performance would have been life changing in a more intimate setting. Not in an arena.
However, the general census walking out of the stadium seemed to be that fans loved it. Talking to audience members at the end, they couldn’t stop professing their love for the unique magic they had just witnessed. And there is the key word…unique. One thing that is for sure is that Sia is an artist in every sense of the word and the Nostalgic For The Present Tour is brave, distinct and unlike anything I have, and probably will ever, see in a concert arena.
The reviewer attended this show on November 30th.
Sia continues her tour this week, hitting Sydney on December 2nd before heading to New Zealand to perform on December 5th. For more information, visit www.siamusic.net.