Sia cheerfully dazzles a packed Fine Line

Categories: Concert Review
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Photos by Anna Gulbrandsen
Australian singer Sia Furler has followed a familiar career arc to a couple of interesting outcomes.  After making a name for herself and establishing some indie credibility as the primary vocalist for down-tempo electronic maestros Zero 7, Sia went back to releasing solo albums, steadily gaining in mainstream popularity until you could buy her 2008 offering (Some People Have Real Problems) at your closest Starbucks along with your morning latte.

Moving from heady, gauzy electronic soundscapes to a more jazzy sound landed her an older fanbase, one that was immediately apparent at a sold-out Fine Line.  The median age was higher than anything you might see at First Ave, the crowd split between kids who wanted to hear older songs and concertgoers with a couple of gray hairs who came to listen to the singer's more recent takes on light R&B and soul.  The crowd seemed unsure of which way she'd lean, some hoping out loud that she'd do one song or another, wondering if she could pack everything into one satisfying set.   

But before the mass of fans could have their questions answered, polite NYC dance group Body Language (and, surprise, former Zero 7 tourmates) started off the night with some loungy, bright hip-shakers that seemed tailor made to set the stage for a singer who could split the difference between organic torch songs and the electronic side of pop.  Songs like "Work This City" and "New Day" were beat-driven and tropical enough to appeal to a younger set that might be into chillwave, while keeping up an energy and easy accessibility that had the entire crowd following along as they smiled their way through happy, clap-along breakdowns.

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Photos by Anna Gulbrandsen
Still, the massive multicolor backdrop reminded the audience who they came to see, and when Sia walked onstage in patchwork playclothes, cheers and squeals poured in from all corners of the room before the band had a chance to launch into "The Fight," a new tune from Sia's upcoming album, We Are Born.  In between each song, Sia gushed with playfully eccentric chatter, telling stories about her trip to the Humane Society, feeding her dogs Raisin Bran (not recommended, apparently), and someone giving her their prosthetic leg during an earlier show.  She invited the crowd to heckle her with a goofy smile pasted across her face, but all the audience could muster were a few enthusiastic shouts of "We love you Sia!," unable to assault someone so cartoonishly cute with anything worse than that. 

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Photos by Anna Gulbrandsen
She deserved every bit of the adulation, dividing an impressive set beween new material geared towards feel-good pop ("Clap Your Hands," "Bring Night") and older songs that showcased her considerable vocal chops.  Sia disappointed a few by mentioning that she wouldn't be singing anything from Zero 7, though she did perform two covers, the Pretenders' "I Go To Sleep" and Madonna's "Oh Father" (the latter prompting adoring shouts, insisting that she's better than Madonna).  Regardless of the fun generated by her more recent songs, the real treats came from the most vocally demanding performances, particularly a tear-jerking rendition of "You Have Been Loved" late in the set that left some wondering how such a commanding voice could come out of such a quirky, diminutive woman.

But before she could get too serious or dour, Sia's jokey, childlike demeanor kept the proceedings light.  The encore saw her strap on a pair of bubble-blowing toy wings before finishing the set off with a sign language assisted "Soon We'll Be Found," two more odd accents from a performer seemingly filled with them. Regardless of her adorable oddities, Sia treated the Fine Line to a remarkable run of songs, her considerable abilities as a singer and songwriter on full display.  Even with a mixed crowd full of mixed expectations, almost everyone got what they wanted (no small feat) and filed out of the packed venue grinning and lively, eagerly looking forward to a new album and Sia's next Twin Cities visit.

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