Sia: Forever Blowing Bubbles

Sia Feb. 26, 2008 Fine Line Music Cafe Review by Jeff Shaw Photos by Tony Nelson

The line stretched far up the block more than two hours in advance of Sia Furler's performance, and the Fine Line's floor was already filling up at 8:30 p.m. The sold-out Tuesday show was either much anticipated, or people were just anticipating the triumphant return of opening act Har Mar Superstar, or likely both.

Sia: Forever Blowing Bubbles

Sia's band entered in costume to "Gonna Fly Now." More photos by Tony Nelson.

Disappointment wasn't in the offing. Har Mar's hour-long set, which saw Sean Tillman progressively disrobe until he was just wearing boxer briefs and ankle-length white Nike socks, warmed up the crowd almost as much as it did the profusely sweating Tillman. Danceable and always entertaining, Har Mar Superstar also introduced "Mic Neck," a plastic hanger gimmick attachment that allowed Tillman (and less successfully, a front-row audience member) to sing hands-free.

Sean Tillman in the terminal stage of undress. You're welcome. More photos.

It was a night of visuals. An impressive pink backdrop was covered with the childlike art that decorates Sia's website, and tour staff had littered the stage with Raggedy Ann, Andy, Clifford the Big Red Dog and dozens of other stuffed animals. The merch table was packed with youth-themed swag (Sia-themed bubbles? Day-glo shoelaces?) that might have seemed a bit too precious and contrived.

But then Sia took the stage, and any worries you had about the Australian singer taking herself too seriously evaporated quickly as she and her five-piece band took the stage in glowing costumes to the strains of "Gonna Fly Now." From there, good times began to roll.

Sia's blend of pop and blue-eyed soul sounds sunnier than the lyrics would often indicate. Some People Have Real Problems is a bittersweet album -- and yet Sia is a disarmingly happy performer. Despite suffering from what she termed "uh-oh bum" as the result of a Taco Bell run, the vocalist chatted amiably with the crowd and giggled even when missing cues or rushing offstage to appease Montezuma.

The Adelaide native even did a song dedication from one fan to another -- right before politely calling for security to remove an unruly up-front observer. (Who gets unruly at a gentle pop show? Answer: a smallish woman who was wrestled outside by three security staff and subsequently removed by police, to general shock and amusement).

Sia's warm, powerful vocals translate perfectly from the recordings to a live show setting. If anything, the woman's pipes are more impressive than the CD would indicate -- when she'd really let loose, as she did during the breakdown to "Lentil," fans from the novice to the die-hard took notice.

Apologizing for her illness, Sia promised an extra-long set next time she returned to Minneapolis. But the iconic image of the night in the "coming back to town" category might just be this: a dripping, underwear-clad Sean Tillmann, pants and outergarments clutched in one hand, coming offstage to receive a proud pat from his father on sweat-laden shoulders and back. Har Mar Superstar had returned, and we were all better for it.

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