Sia suffers from a split personality in Vancouver
At the Commodore on Friday, August 19
She’s without question certifiably nuts, but let no one suggest that Sia Furler is crazy enough to make the same mistake twice.
As the bleached-blonde, Los-Angeles-via-Australia songbird acknowledged four or so songs into Friday night’s set, her last appearance at the Commodore, in April of 2010, didn’t end so well. The lesson learned that night was that you don’t hit the stage dressed in California condor–sized bird wings made from the dust jackets of the 3,042 self-help books you’ve read over the course of your life.
And if you’re going to be stupid enough to do that, then you certainly don’t complete the ensemble with a shawl made with enough tie-dyed wool to keep the New Zealand Sheep Shearers’ Association afloat until the end of the next fiscal year. Because if you do, chances are you’re going to last about five songs before collapsing from what her bandmates announced was heat exhaustion.
But that was last time.
On this night, the vulture-wings and Australian’s-nightmare wool combo was retired in favor of an ensemble that was part Spanish siren and part Ukrainian peasant, except that instead of roses and other assorted flowers, said get-up was emblazoned with vaginas. Same with her shoes.
Yes, in case you missed it the first time, Sia is a bit nuts.
She’s also one of the strangest performers working in pop music today, and not totally in a good way. For much of the show it was like watching two radically different entertainers stuck in the same body.
When she was singing, Sia was, from a technical standpoint, nothing less than a powerhouse, equally impressive whether doing the white-woman blues (“I Go to Sleep”), unleashing her inner funky monkey (“The Fight”), or channeling golden-years Stevie Nicks (“Little Black Sandals”). Hell, she even turned the one-note, tour-bus goof “Pee on You” into something that sounded dub-soul delicious.
Where things fall flat is that the pixie-like vocalist doesn’t really do anything when she’s singing except stand there at centre stage clutching the mike stand. No one wants to see you take root, lady—grab that thing and prowl the floorboards a little. You don’t have to be Iggy Pop rolling in broken glass and peanut butter, but people want to see a bit of a show.
Weirdly, Sia couldn’t have been more entertaining between songs. She was a one-woman comedy show, riffing on everything from which member of her band was most likely to appreciate a good stiff blow job to how flower-shaped beavers have never stopped the porn stars cursed with them from making movies. Those in the room who were glued to barstools—as opposed to standing on the dance floor—were excused for being either lazy or pregnant, and the encore had her bounding out and goofily hollering “Surprise”.
There was no surprise, unfortunately, as Sia just stood there at centre stage singing in the frozen-siren pose for her final two numbers, “Clap Your Hands” and “Breathe Me”.
She’s got the witty banter down pat. If Sia can only learn to loosen up the rest of her show and unfurl that mike chord, she’ll be unstoppable.
Opener Oh Land could have taught the headliner something about giving it up for the audience. The Danish singer born Nanna Øland Fabricius arrived on-stage wearing a black modified beret, sheer gold fabric over her head, and a tattered black outfit that strongly suggested she went out as a witch of Eastwick last Halloween. She exited, after a half-hour of infectious Euro-flavoured synth pop, with the entire Commodore roaring its approval.
The most bizarre sight, in retrospect, came when Sia and her band bum-rushed the stage to lend a hand on Oh Land’s set-closing “We Turn It Up”. There was Sia was in the background, air-guitaring away on a bass while kicking her feet in the air like a young Pete Townshend. Given the lack of anything resembling a performance that followed, it was nuts.