For the first time since 2011, Sia returned to her home shores, playing her debut Australian arena shows as part of her ‘Nostalgic For The Present’ tour. Rather than a triumphant homecoming, though, she left her fans divided with a show that blended (seemingly) live music and a modern art performance on the set of an eerie horror movie – all while it poured down rain.

“Let’s not let the rain beat us Sydney!” yelled opener Amy Shark to the poncho-clad crowd, who were slowly building up at Sydney’s Allianz Stadium. The audience, most of whom were adorned with drenched black-and-blonde Sia wigs, were excited despite the rain, chanting out the lyrics of ‘Adore’ back to a jubilant Amy Shark.

Danish electro-pop singer was next up, and instantly captivated the audience from the crowd barrier, holding hands with fans and unconcerned by the rain. Finally, Charli XCX braved the elements to blow the crowd away with her experimental pop music, capping off the support acts brilliantly. “This is really some fucking girl power shit!” she yelled to the audience, and all I could think to myself was, ‘did Sia just prove that an all-girl line-up really can pull a huge crowd?’

Then came what the crowd had all been waiting for, albeit 10 minutes late, the delay explained away in a tweet from the always honest Sia. “I may be five mintues late,” she said. “We couldn’t catch a plane due to weather, so drove thirteen hours then blew a tire which has given me crazy diarrhea. Bear with me guys. I love you.”

All forgiven, the curtains opened to reveal Sia in the middle of the stage, wearing her classic oversized black-and-white bow with the matching wig and a large ruffled dress, with the only other prop on stage being a large square backdrop.  As ‘Alive’ kicked things off, the dress began to convulse, before suddenly morphing into dancer Maddie Ziegler. With Maddie having starred in six of her music videos so far, the two are a bit of a package deal now, and the audience were almost as excited to see her dance as they were to hear Sia sing – especially after an entrance like that.

Sia

I went between watching what was happening onstage to what was being shown on the two massive screens either side, and at first glance the videographers’ filming seemed extremely impressive. The lighting! The angles! It looked incredible, until the realisation came that those screens were showing a pre-recorded set, one that mirrored exactly what was happening on stage.

On the one hand, the synchronisation of the dancers was impressive, as they managed to mimic the pre-recorded version almost perfectly. On the other, I was sad for those audience members who were sitting near the back of the huge Allianz stadium, and had paid money to essentially see a pre-recorded show with a tiny figure in the distance singing the songs.

Sia’s vocals were amazing, her performance entrancing despite her barely moving. In many ways, she’s crafted a modern masterpiece, every element working in unison with those vocals that can take you to another world. But still, I felt for those unlucky many who were so far away, and couldn’t help but wish for the intimate confines of a theatre rather than a stadium. In saying that, Sia joins Adele, Taylor Swift and Madonna as the only solo female acts who have played stadium shows in Australia for the past 30 years, which is a testament to her hard work, expertly-manicured persona and incredible talent – but also raises big, recurring questions about the state of our live music industry.

Despite the challenges that came with fitting Sia’s square peg of a live show into the round hole of an arena, her audience knew that they wouldn’t be in for a regular pop show, and for better or worse she gave them an unforgettable night.

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