Sia at First Avenue, 7/21/11


Sia Thursday, July 21, 2011 First Avenue Mainroom, Minneapolis

Australian artist Sia stepped onto a vast multi-colored patchwork stage (a little Willy Wonka meets Grandma's knitting farm) at First Avenue's Mainroom last night to a delighted crowd of fans. The singer, wearing a many-layered dress of ruffles that vaguely resembled a couture babushka doll costume, positioned herself in front of the microphone with a bright smile and launched into her set with an equally bright enthusiasm.


This North American tour is more or less picking up where Sia left off nearly a year ago, when the singer cancelled all of the remaining dates on her We Are Born tour due to what turned out to be Graves' disease. Since getting some much-needed rest and undergoing thyroid replacement therapy, Sia is back--and isn't showing any signs of stopping.

Throughout her 90-minute set, the singer delivered her songs with a playful zeal that matched her giant sunny grin. She powered through "The Fight," "Buttons," and "Oh Father," standing mostly stationary at the microphone but seemingly trying to resist cracking up at the sight of so many excited fans gathered before her. After that third song, Sia solicited "heckles" from the crowd--gifts and little mementos, which the singer would discuss and then shove down her tight spandex pants. Sia quickly revealed herself to have a wonderfully eccentric sense of humor that way, and frequently broke from the set to indulge in chats with her audience.

"You guys are what make it different, you know, doing the same show night after night," said the singer, beaming. "I mean, apart from the way we smell based on what we ate the day before, I suppose."

It's rare that a singer can be so immediately and disarmingly charming. Sia was like half Ellen and half musician, picking out different audience members at certain points.


"Hey, where are you going?" Sia called out to a couple that was walking down the metal stairs, presumably on their way out. "I was just asking because there's always this part of me that wants to be like, 'Wait, what's wrong? Where are you going? At what point did it all go wrong for you? Just tell me, I'll do better next time!' Oh, but you're just going to the bar," laughed the singer gleefully. "I just showed myself off to be a little insecure there, didn't I? Ha!"

Armed with that kind of spirited merriment, Sia could muddle through the show however she wanted and not lose a soul. In fact, she totally forgot the words to "I Go To Sleep" in the middle of the dynamic ballad, and laughed it off cheerfully, along with the audience.

"Good thing I'm not a perfectionist," she snickered. "Thanks for being nice, and for being the first show. Now I know which ones I have to study tonight!"

Perfectionist or no, Sia's talent can't be undone with a few forgotten lyrics. Her incredible voice jumped seamlessly from alternative jazz to fuzzy pop to, yes, ska-stylings, and she managed it all with a grace and humor that only served to amplify her massive talent.

Critic's Bias: Ever since I bought Sia's Some People Have Real Problems at Starbucks--no, I'm kidding. Sia is a combination of lots of things I really like: kickass female vocals, thoughtful composition, offbeat style and humor. The Crowd: Youngish, but not obnoxious (how could you be, when Sia was just so perfectly likeable). Overheard in the crowd: "Stay forever!" shrieked one audience member after Sia forgot the words to her song, declaring that the crowd should "keep a tally of [her] fuck-ups" to determine what her punishment should be. Random notebook dump: Openers Oh, Land were the perfect complement to Sia's set--they were energetic, bouncing around the stage, and their sound was crystal-clear and solid. For more photos: See our full slideshow by Anna Gulbrandsen.

Set list: The Fight Buttons Oh Father ?Give It Up? * Big Girl Little Girl Cloud I Go To Sleep I'm Not Important To You Pee On You** Be Good To Me Taken For Granted Hurting Me Now Soon We'll Be Found My Love Never Gonna Leave Me I'm Inside

Encore: Clap Your Hands Breathe Me

*This song was introduced as being co-written by Nick Valenti of the Strokes, and is brand new. **A song Sia wrote on the bus with her band, YouTube version here: