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Sia’s “Nostalgic For The Present” At Barclay Center, Tuesday, October 25th, 2016 Reviewed

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At Barclay Center Tuesday night, Sia Furler was the anti-Britney Spears –Britney danced but didn’t sing, Britney was in the middle of the proceedings, she was the proceedings at her Vegas show. SIa sang but she didn’t dance, didn’t move from under her black and blonde wig except to go further and further into the corner. The sound was great (though taped? I didn’t see any band), the vocals stupendous, that powerful pop maestro deep feel 2016 bellowness, but as a performance by Sia it was nonexistent. Maddie Ziegler (the “Dance Moms” break out star), her 14 year old emotive stand in, was a frenetic replacement, and a visitation by Kristin Wiig added a little to the multi-platform art and dance presentation, but all put together Sia’s “Nostalgic For The Present” was not a very good show.

Sia was born to be a songwriter, suffering from crippling shyness and, I assume, stage fright, she is uncomfortable to the point of bizarreness, in the public eye. From 2011, when hits for Flo Rida, and also her titanic, game changer David Guetta produced and arranged “Titanium”, she broke free and smasherinos for the likes of Rihanna followed. And not just “Diamonds”, three songs on the Britney Spears album before last, Travis McCoy, Bleachers, Kanye West… on and on. But even that wasn’t enough, so last year she put together all the songs rejected by rock stars and recorded them herself, on This Is Acting. A very good album, the apex of populism as self-expression. “Cheap Thrills” has been on the Singles charts for most of the year. Sia is the great artist of EDM, Max Martin is a pop machine, but Sia is a real songwriter, a true master of modern pop, a woman who puts herself in the middle of mainstream pop songs.

Tuesday’s concert should have been the accumulation, the highlight, of her brilliant career. Certainly, the opening acts were pretty darn impressive. Alunageorge are a top pop EDM duo from the UK, and Miguel? Miguel I almost went to T5 to see last year. Wild Heart was absolutely the equal of the Weeknd’s Beauty behind The Madness, “The Valley” was the equal of “The Hills” even if it didn’t translate as expected saleswise. Neither act  were that hot live on stage, Aluna Francis, is a classic beauty, and an arresting presence on stage, helped by a live drummer as well as IT man George Reid, but the stage was bathed so darkly, all of it was wasted. As for Miguel, I’ve seen Miguel before and my sense was that he was seriously, seriously holding back: this boring, slow set, with a truly useless “contest” between the various sides of the room as to who can sing loudest, brought the evening to a complete standstill. An atrocious set and a huge misstep, the only saving grace was that if Miguel had given it everything he had, they’d be still picking up the pieces from Sia’s performances, he’d have smashed it so thoroughly.

Maddie Zeigler is fourteen years old, and her interpretive dancing is fine as far as I know (I was impressed with her “Elastic Heart” video), but it was interpretive dancing in a 18K seater built for rock stars and hoops, it was strange, uncomfortable and zero fun to watch. I’ll go to a Twyla Tharpe show as much as  the next person, and I admired Twyla’s Dylan dance recital on Broadway much more than most, and if that was what this was, then fine. But we were paying top dollar to see a popstar perform her songs, and if her excuse is “I’m shy” –well, then don’t tour. This was much more “canned” then Britney. Britney might have not sung (or at best, sung along to) her songs, but it was a big, beautiful presentation that gave us what we wanted: proximity and joy. Sia gave us neither. Was she happy? Sad? Involved? Devalued? I have no clue. I had no reaction to the dance, except to say, it wasn’t very dancey at all, the stage production was none existent, and the prices were too expensive to watch some people flay about while Sia hid.

Sia should never have toured like this, it was a total rip off and I wish I hadn’t gone.

Grade: D+

 

 

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