Sia lights up the Avalon with soulful, playful songs

Danielle R. Swopes

How often does a live show create a more enthusiastic fan than a carefully crafted studio album? Last Wednesday, Aussie songstress Sia managed to do just that.

“Colour the Small One,” Sia’s second album but the first to be released in the United States, is full of deeply emotional songs, which made her almost gleeful performance a pleasant surprise. She would sing a soulful song, fill it with alternating power and fragility, and then grin and chatter at the audience.

Her persona matched the stage set-up: simple and lighthearted. Sia chose a luau theme, complete with lighted flamingoes, plastic grass and flower chains, as well as themed cups for herself and her bandmates. Beyond that, lighting and the music created the atmosphere. At times black lights caused some of the flowers to glow slightly, evoking an “Alice in Wonderland” feel.

Before launching into her first song, Sia introduced a woman named Delia, who was interpreting for deaf audience members. Sia tossed balloons out into the crowd as further assistance. To increase her own amusement, she cursed quite often during the introduction.

“I’m sorry, but I really like swearing when there’s an interpreter,” Sia said with a giggle.

She opened with “Sunday,” which many people may recognize from the TV show “Grey’s Anatomy.” She performed songs from her first album, “Healing is Difficult,” her current album and a few that she and her band will begin recording next month.

At one point she encouraged the audience to guess the next song, only to quiet the cacophony and tell them that none of them were right, before launching into a cover of “I Go to Sleep” by the Pretenders.

She later performed another song that gained fame in TV land, this time on the show “Six Feet Under.” Sia’s song “Breathe Me” was the last song on the show’s series finale. Her live performance was more touching than the album version – she really let loose, pouring herself into the chorus and showing surprising strength. She told the audience that it was okay to cry a bit before she started, and afterward reassured the audience that “I was sad at the time, but I’m okay now. I’m in a much better mood.”

Sia often smiled while she sang, sometimes doing a bit of a dance. After each song, she would thank the audience, sometimes doing a small curtsy and turning toward the various sections. The crowd applauded, joined in on the chorus of her more popular songs, and swayed to the music.

She accepted a hula dancing doll from an audience member, and a bouquet from another who had contacted her through Sia’s online message board.

Sia wore a black and white striped dress, and let her short blonde hair hang loose, while her musicians opted to dress up a bit with coats and ties. From time to time, her pianist (Sia dubbed him her “panano” player) and guitarist would chime in almost imperceptibly, adding depth to key lines. The group seemed to get along well, and they all had a laugh when Sia managed to sing an entire song about a quarter of a beat ahead of the music ? for the second night in a row.

Before Sia took the stage, there were two opening bands.

One was Greg Laswell, a two-man band out of San Diego that sounds a bit like Coldplay. The music sounds happy, but the lyrics reveal a troubled past that the singer said he has moved past. Laswell sang several songs, one inspired by his mother, and another by his grandmother, before turning the stage over to the ladies of the Bird and the Bee.

The Bird and the Bee featured front woman Inara George and three background singers. George wore “Beethoven garb,” a short gray dress with long sleeves and white lace at her throat. Her sparkly Edwardian shoes completed an outfit that made little to no sense, but perhaps that was the point. Her slender frame brought to mind a marionette doll, her voice the Cranberries.

The songs had catchy tunes that linger in listeners’ minds, but some of the lyrics can lead to trouble in polite company. “Will You Be My F*cking Boyfriend?” is a fun one that probably should not be sung at work. Stick with the high-pitched “Again and Again,” the title track from their first single, which was released on Halloween. Look for the full album in early 2007.

Sia’s album was released in the U.S. in January 2006, two years after its U.K. release. Though she said she hopes the next one will be available by May, she said that it will most likely be September before it hits stores. Her infectious U.S. tour will have many waiting anxiously.