Sia = Substance.
Watching Sia perform at Coachella was witnessing the love of music and art come together -- and oh my, was it beautiful. I literally stood there, prepared to be astounded (from the ridiculously rave reviews from Week 1, I knew what was coming) and I was still shocked. Here was an artist laying bare her own inner fears, emotional battles, and scars for the world to see, achieved through a careful blend of highly perfected dance routines (somehow manic and peaceful at the same time) and a pure, true, rarely-felt-in-large-arenas emotion in her vocals.
Sia's voice is not simply different. It seems to reach out from her heart with a forceful intensity and depth. The weight of her emotion was massive, and her voice pierced through the thick desert dust and wind. It electrified my senses. I was affected. I was welled up in the tear ducts for the first 25 minutes in response to the video and perfectly-coordinated live performance.
Just….Fuck yeah. This is the real stuff.
I believe live shows should be just that – a live show. (NOTE: Sia used pre-recorded music but was 100% live with the vocals.) Get out on stage and show me what you have. This is one reason I love Metal so much – the live experience. Metal artists play their asses off and bring their force to your ears. For me, it’s just so real. So pure. They’re not trying to win you over but if you like it, awesome. It’s always like this sonic realism; it’s something to see and feel. This is also why Metal attracts such enduring, long-term fans. Metal artist crave for their music to be played live and fans keep coming back year after year to experience it all over again.
But back to Sia. Damn! Sia proved to me that a true expression of music is not just how it’s heard but how it’s presented. Her performance was a triple threat: Sia stood still in front of a microphone, face obscured by her trademark black and white wig, singing her guts out; on the screens flanking the stage, there was a pre-recorded video with actors Paul Dano, Kristen Wiig and Tig Notaro; and in the center of the stage, we watched an emotionally charged live dance interpretation of the video with three dancers, including 13-year-old dance prodigy and Sia mini-me Maddie Ziegler (from Sia's explosive "Elastic Heart" and "Chandelier" music videos). As a result, I heard her music in a whole different way.
Yes, in most live performances, I want to see what type of style the bass player brings, but with this type of art it’s irrelevant. Solo artists can get away with this because they ARE the brand. With Sia, the brand is not the hidden face trickery of the wigs but what the music is actually doing. It’s bringing something forward and she wants you to feel it. She hopes you feel it.
I did. I love Sia for making me feel her music, and now my admiration will never stop. I’ll keep coming back to see her year after year. I'm adding her to the list of bands I will travel drastically out of my way to see.* Why? Because all of these artists want you to experience their art AND what their music means. By that, I mean not only what it means to them, but what it means to YOU. That deep-down feeling is why we love music that resonates, and why we disregard the disposable pop of the world.
If Sia's tour comes anywhere near you (check tour dates here), go see her. It’s worth your time and is so much more than just another night out. Trust me, you’ll smile and give thanks, not just to Sia but also to yourself for making the effort. Sia clearly has.
* TOOL, Savages, Adele, Grimes (we’ll get back to this and why in my Coachella Week 2 column), Radiohead, Chelsea Wolfe, Killing Joke, Rival Sons, Kylesa, Kaskade, Built to Spill, Mastodon, Chris Stapleton, Tribulation, Foals, NIN, , Charles Bradley, Gary Clark Jr.
Lame Good Morning America piece about the controversy surrounding Sia's brilliant "Elastic Heart" video - I'm including it to give context about why Sia shies away from showing her face in public and the meaning behind the song (two warring parts of Sia's inner world)
Thumbnail image via DFree/Shutterstock.com