Believe the Hype: Sia at Austin Convention Center

Categories: SXSW

By Niki D’Andrea

I don’t consider myself an emotional person. I rarely cry at sad movies, I don’t dote over puppies and babies, and naturally sappy people annoy me. But Sia, the Australian sensation who’s been building a buzz via distribution through Starbucks around her sixth album, Some People Have Real Problems, made me cry. I’ve seen hundreds of shows in my lifetime, but I’d never seen a performer who could actually make me weep. Until Sia. And she did it with a single note that left an audience of hundreds absolutely breathless.

Before I caught this 6 p.m. show, I expected Sia to be shy -- maybe even self-conscious -- onstage. That preconception stemmed from repeat listens to her album, which is a brilliant pop record brimming with beautiful melodies, soulful vocals, and the sort of lyrical introspection that tends to come from surviving some real bad shit and taking an internal-dialogue sabbatical.

But if Sia was ever self-conscious onstage, it didn’t show. Audience members were handed multi-colored glowsticks as they walked in the door. When the lights went down, Sia’s band came out dressed in neon happy-face costumes that glowed under the blacklights. Sia came out with a Dayglo happy face on, too, and the gimmick set the tone for an incredibly fun and laid back-but-emotive show.

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Sia sets the tone for her show with a happy face.

After the opening song, the audience screamed out its collective appreciation, and Sia removed her happy mask to reveal a genuinely joyful face. She looked sooo thrilled to be there, casting a huge smile that was only outsized by her formidable voice, and bounced around giggling.

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Sia: So happy to be here.

The singer’s 45-minute set included a handful of songs from her phenomenal album – “Little Red Sandals,” “Lentil,” “Day Too Soon,” “Academia,” and “The Girl You Lost to Cocaine.” Her set also included some great dialogue with the audience.

“Are you guys okay? Can I get you anything?” she asked. “I don’t think we have any hors doeuvres. And this isn’t a real show, so we don’t have any stuffed toys to give you. So all I can offer you is more songs. And maybe a bit of leg,” she joked, hiking up her skirt slightly.

At another point, she pulled up her tights, saying, “Saggy tights aren’t very sexy. I hope this isn’t going to be on TV.” (Um, yeah, there were three massive camera rigs there).

When an audience member yelled out, “Give me one of your scarves!” (Sia was wearing several), the singer replied, “That was so funny, the way he yelled ‘Give me one of your scarves!’ and then got all surprised by his boldness and was like, ‘Maybe later.’ That was really cute. I’ll think about it and get back to you.”

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Sia and her incredible band.

Throughout the set, people around me were gasping with awe. Sia’s got some serious pipes, and she rode notes expertly, showing she’s as smooth a crooner as anyone out there.

When Sia performed her last song, “Breathe Me” (from the Six Feet Under: Everything Ends soundtrack), the audience was so enraptured that when the band paused and Sia held a long, winsome note, you could have heard a feather drop in the convention center. Then when she exploded back into the song, everyone around me let out a collective exhale. And that’s when I started crying.

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I couldn’t wait to download the song on iTunes when I got back to the hotel. And I hope that I can get into Stubb’s on Friday to see her midnight performance.

Check out the video below for a taste of Sia's performance of "Lentil" at SxSW.


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