Sia October 7, Mandalay Bay Events Center.
Those familiar with Sia’s radio hits “Chandelier” and “Cheap Thrills” might have expected a straightforward pop show Friday at Mandalay Bay Events Center. Instead, Sia engaged us in a conversation on the human condition, a dialogue woven through intense visuals, song and dance.
Performing as if her platform heels were glued to a corner on the floor, Sia never moved throughout the entire set; yet through her immaculately produced and evocative show, she managed to speak to everyone in the arena, providing commentary on a wide range of situations and emotions—depression, panic, exhaustion, heartache, innocence and strength.
Sia opened with “Alive,” a powerful pop stunner with the stamp of English singer/songwriter Adele (who co-wrote it). From the song’s start, 14-year-old dance phenom Maddie Ziegler, who has starred in five of Sia’s videos, danced furiously alongside the singer, adding dimension and weight to the dramatic vocals.
While Ziegler and other dancers leapt and pirouetted onstage, television screens displayed video of yet more dancers, completely in sync with those in the arena. The choreography was so exact, in fact, it was as if the videos were happening live—until the people in the videos revealed themselves. From Tig Notaro in “Diamonds” to Paul Dano in “Bird Set Free” and Kristen Wiig in “One Million Bullets,” each paired with the dancers onstage to create memorable pieces of performance art.
The choreography for “Breathe Me” was the most visually stunning. As Sia sang the words, “Help, I have lost myself today,” a man paced around the stage with two giant, inflatable hands clenching his shoulders. As the singer climbed octaves, the man entered a state of panic, clawing at the sky as she bellowed the line, “Be my friend.” In the end, the man didn’t reach a happy resolve, but continued to slap himself in the face until the lights dimmed. It was a jarring and visceral exploration of pain and loneliness.
When HBO’s Six Feet Under featured that very single in its final scene back in 2005, the Australian indie-pop singer seemed destined for hipster stardom, not a smooth crossover to the mainstream. Eleven years later, she’s a bona fide pop star, yet she has retained and expanded upon her artistry. Though her music might be more suited for the charts, her work has become more thought-provoking than ever.