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Concert Reviews:
Sia delivers high art at The Palace

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Sunday, October 16, 2016

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AUBURN HILLS -- Sia Furler takes such great pains to remain enigmatic, aloof and mysterious that you can't really expect her to bare much more before a crowd of several thousand people.

And the Australian pop singer and songwriter stayed true to form on Saturday night, Oct. 15, during her Nostalgic For The Present Tour stop at The Palace. But she did manage to turn her trademark reticence into high conceptual art over the course of her 16-song, nearly 90-minute show.

On just her second full concert tour and first of arenas, Sia not surprisingly elected to not be the star of her own show. Sporting a white dress with her usual blonde-and-black wig covering most of her face, topped by a giant white bow. Sia sang mostly from a side position on the spare stage -- a large white platform and screen -- while different configurations of her five dancers executed arty choreography to complement the songs, with 14-year-old wunderkind Maddie Ziegler, who's appeared in several of Sia's videos, getting the lion's share of the spotlight.

Adding to the avant -- albeit bloodless -- mood were accompanying, pre-filmed videos of the same routines but with cameos by actors such as Kristen Wiig, Paul Dano and Tig Notaro. The live dancers were synced so well with their filmed counterparts that it occasionally took a minute to ascertain that what was on the stage was indeed NOT the same as the screen.

Following strong opening sets by Miguel and AlunaGeorge, Sia started with a sharp visual stunt; seemingly alone on stage (with no visible live band) she began "Alive" wearing a large, billowing skirt -- from which the dancers emerged, with four twirling off the stage to leave Ziegler alone in an angsty, balletic interpretation of the song. Highlights from the rest of the night included: a male dancer using light-reflecting gloves to create patterns in the air during Sia's version of Rihanna's "Diamonds" (which she co-wrote); a dancer using shadow hands, illuminated on the back screen by a project, to "control" Ziegler during "Soon We'll Be Found;" particularly physical presentations of "Elastic Heart" and "Unstoppable;" and a variety of costumed characters during "Fire Meets Gasoline," "Breathe Me" and her rendition of David Guetta's "Titanium."

It was all daring and different -- and ultimately in the wrong place. While her commercial appeal may make her an arena candidate (although the modest crowd Saturday at The Palace indicated that move might be a bit premature) Sia's precise, dispassionate show is designed for theater and performing arts center places. It's best viewed in close quarters and straight-on rather than from the sides, especially since the stage construction put a couple of vertical girders in place that obstructed the view from a substantial number of seats. All of that only mitigated the concert's impact, if not it's ambition.

Sia may be pushing to be "The Greatest," as she sang during the opulent closing number. She's certainly bold and creative enough to get there, which may make us more nostalgic for her future than the present.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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