Sia, the 40-year-old Australian singer known for hits such as “Chandelier” and “Cheap Thrills,” offered an intriguing evening of performance art at KeyArena Thursday, Sept. 29, but her dancers and stagecraft overshadowed her.
Sia tried to answer a simple question Thursday (Sept. 29) at KeyArena: Can a pop show also be considered performance art?
It certainly felt like it could be as Sia used songs from her 2016 hit album “This Is Acting” to craft powerful visual vignettes. It was the rare arena concert that had a real sense of tension and mystery to it.
Taking an immediate, deliberate position down stage from her talented troupe of dancers, Sia led off with her single “Alive” before quickly relegating herself to the far side of the white performance space. Given that Sia has often concealed her face during performances since her 2014 breakthrough album “1000 Forms of Fear,” it was an odd but not unexpected arrangement that put the focus squarely on the visual aspect of the show.
Since there was sadly no live band and Sia herself did little besides sing note-perfect if somewhat rote versions of her songs, it wasn’t out of the question to wonder what we needed her for, anyway. After all, there was a magnetic visual assault to focus on, led by 14-year-old dancer Maddie Ziegler, who has starred in five of Sia’s music videos since 2014.
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The imagery ranged from the captivating chaos of “Big Girls Cry,” which had Ziegler channeling manic energy as she gave form to the lyrics “tough girl/whose soul aches,” to a shimmering light show created by reflective gloves on Rihanna’s No. 1 hit “Diamonds.”
Most of the time, the dancing perfectly complemented the music and asked you to pay attention in different ways than most shows do, especially during the fierce fight between Ziegler and another dancer during “Elastic Heart.” But Sia was such a passive presence, when things weren’t quite as visually interesting, there wasn’t much else to draw you in.
Given the immense effort exerted by her dancers, it wasn’t much of a surprise that the show clocked in at just 75 minutes. Even so, there was time for Sia to squeeze in plenty of crowd-pleasers, including her closing song, the hit “Chandelier, and “The Greatest,” which she used to powerful effect as her sole encore number.
During opening act Miguel, the sound system repeatedly crackled and hissed, accentuating a poorly received performance from the Grammy-winning singer. Fortunately the issues were cleared up before Sia hit the stage.