Sia FlowersSia Furler, an Australian-born singer, provided the driving vocal force behind many of mellow brit-pop group Zero 7's hits.  Now, with the explosion of independent rock in the U.S., her solo career is taking off, and she is finally getting the attention she deserves.  She has been touring the nation supporting her latest solo album, titled Some People Have Real Problems.  Sia arrived at Detroit's Magic Stick on March 1st, 2008 and despite being sick put on a very unique and wild show, with a little help from the colorful Har Mar Superstar…

(All photos by Jason Mick and Detroit Chic, courtesy of Sia and Har Mar Superstar) 

 

Jason Thumbnail      Unfortunately, Detroit Chic has to wait a bit longer for their exclusive interview with Australian indie-pop sensation Sia , as she fell ill before the show.  Fortunately, we did not have to wait to see Sia put on a great show.  The Sia show went down this last Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Magic Stick, located along Woodward, a stone's throw away from Wayne State University , C-Pop, The Detroit Artist's Market and the Majestic. 

      The Magic Stick is getting a lot of talented independent acts these days.  The Stick pleases, as it treads the fine line between small coffeehouse-type venues and the big,impersonal venues that abound in the Detroit area.  Venues such as DTE, the Palace, Fox Theatre and Saint Andrews all have their appeal, but they don't have the up-close feeling that the Stick gives you.  Only the Shelter, beneath Saint Andrews, provides a similar small-venue experience.  Another nice thing about the Stick, missing from the Shelter, is the presence of pool tables upstairs and a bowling alley downstairs, which gives you a great place to chill between sets or hang out after the show.

      Doors for the show opened at 7 p.m.  The crowd walked in to view one of the most interestingly decorated stages in the Magic Stick's history. In the back of the stage, a large banner hung featuring Sia's MS Paint-style art.  In the front of the stage stood modern art-like trees, or flowers of lights, with numerous bulbs mounted on them.  These would later make for an unbelievable light show (as seen in the title caption picture) but even unlit, they looked intriguing and outlandish.  The stage was also littered with literally dozens of large, plush stuffed animals.  The combined appearance gave the stage a dream-like and childish appearance.

      At 8 p.m. Sia was nowhere to be seen.  Fortunately, a few minutes later her opening act, Har Mar Superstar, emerged.  Har Mar, whose real name is Sean Tillman for those unfamiliar, has made a curious musical career based on his resemblance to porn star Ron Jeremy.  Har Mar's music first made it big in the U.K. indie rock/dance scene.  It blends electroclash and pop into a painfully catchy mix, resembling a more sexually explicit Britney Spears or Justin Timberlake.  Har Mar has in the past been less than warmly received due to his tongue-in-cheek (no pun intended) nature of show, which borders on explicit sexuality.

                        Har Mar does headstand
      Pictured: Har Mar Superstar does a headstand to pump up the crowd.

      Har Mar received a relatively warm welcome from the Detroiters, though.  He put on an energetic performance in return.  He did everything from headstands, to journeying into the crowd to hump an innocent bystander.  Much of Har Mar's vocals seemed to be canned background tracks, but that left him to engage in his unusual brand of performance.  While his bass guitarist and drummer played away furiously, Har Mar engaged in such antics as stripping off three layers of t-shirts and removing his pants.  This left the rather disturbing image of an overweight, middle-aged man singing falsetto seared into the minds of viewers.  Worse yet was the fact that the music was actually slightly catchy.

                       Har Mar gets up close and personal
      Pictured: Har Mar Superstar gets up close and personal with a female fan.

      Har Mar tried his best to get the crowd involved, using everything from hip thrusts to wild hand gestures.  At one point, he entered the audience and received a couple dollar bills tucked into his pants from one of the female audience members.  He returned the favor by planting a big Har Mar kiss on her mouth (or possibly throat).  Har Mar performed such songs as "DUI", "Cheetah Girls", and "Alone Again (Naturally)".  Probably the catchiest song Har Mar played was the tune "Cut Me Up".  Near the show's end, Har Mar's less flambuoyant bassist showed he had some tricks of his own, balancing his bass guitar on his chin.  The wild show concluded with an almost-naked Har Mar proclaiming his love for Detroit and getting the crowd psyched for Sia.

                                      Har Mar Goes Crazy
      Pictured: Har Mar Superstar offers a bemused Detroit crowd some full-figured sweaty man-love.

      While Har Mar proved an entertaining distraction, the show was really about Sia, and the crowd knew this.  After Har Mar left the stage, the excitement was palapable.  When the lights dimmed, the crowd began to cheer.  Seconds later, a glowing suited ensemble walked out on stage.  Under the black lights of the stage, the group's costumes glowed in neon oranges, greens and yellows.  Had strange aliens landed at the Magic Stick?  If they had, it became relatively apparent that they sounded a lot like Sia and her band, as they instantly launched into Sia's powerful blend of indie rock, blues, electronic and jazz.

Sia Lands  Sia Lands
      Pictured: Sia and her band land @ the Magic Stick.

      After the first two songs, the lights turned back on, and the suited ensemble de-robed to reveal it was not otherworldly visitors, but none other than Sia and her band.  Sia shared the story of her illness with the crowd, explaining that she had contracted the "as they say, taco uh ohs."  Sia was clad in a rainbow scarf and looked every bit her status as an indie artist.  Any rendition of her set would not be complete without a mention of the wild light show.  Throughout the set the trees of lights blazed different neon colors, and light bulbs inside them lit up, in a dazzling display of light to match Sia and her band's aural display.

Sia Revealed  Sia Revealed 2
      Pictured: Sia opened looking otherworldly (left), then settled for a chic indie look (right).

      Having only listened to some of Sia's material, Detroit Chic was very impressed by Sia's vocal depth and talent.  It was clear she needed no canned tracks or backup vocals.  Sia was a real treat to hear, as she is one of those rare vocalists with a truly powerful voice.  Her voice is apt to draw comparisons to alternative artists such as Ani DiFranco and Natalie Imbruglia, or indie artists such as Imogen Heap and Alice Smith .  Regardless of who exactly she resembles vocally, she delivers an impressive and original brand of vocal mastery.  Her lyrics, while often exploring childish themes, struck the listener as both poignant and at times, sad.

                       Sia Packs a Vocal Punch
   Pictured: In an era of lip-synching pop-stars, indie artist Sia packs a real vocal punch.

      Much of Sia's material focused on love and heartbreak, with her performing songs such as "The Girl You Lost To Cocaine".  This theme struck a particularly powerful note during her performance of "Death by Chocolate".  At the end of the previous song she had commented, "Oh well, there's plenty more fish in the sea," before launching into this particularly emotionally fueled performance, showcasing the full width of her vocal range.  She also pleased the crowd by playing the non-album fan favorite "Broken Biscuit".

                    Sia Head Hung
      Pictured: Despite her upbeat personality throughout the show, some songs took a visible emotion toll on Sia.

      Other songs took on a more playful and childish bent.  She performed "Playground", a catchy tune that brings the listener back to days of their youth.  Sia maintained a playful dialog with the crowd that was both child-like and comedic.  She at one point remarked, "I'm sorry I was cursing.  I didn't think there would be children at this show.  Awesome! Dancing children on shoulders!  This is the best gig yet.  No more cursing!"

                     Sia Laughing
      Pictured: Sia entertains the Detroit audience with a joke.

      At one point, Sia and her band had a small mis-cue on the song "Buttons", as she started singing too soon.  She graciously apologized, and the band jumped back into the song without a hitch.  Toward the end of the show, Sia showed some love for Michigan and Detroit, donning a big purple Michigan pin.  At the end of her set, she explained to the crowd that she was adjusting to the idea of encores. She always thought you just played more and that people shouldn't have to ask.  She told the crowd comically, "Maybe I won't be back, but I probably will!"

                    Sia and Band
      Pictured: Sia's band provided a solid backing, throughout the show.

      She and her band returned for a final song — a rendition of Somersault by Zero 7.  Throughout the show, Sia was enthusiastic, playful and upbeat, despite not feeling her best.  She was very respectful of her band, taking time to personally introduce and praise each member, though the celloist had a bit of fun poked at him.  Though Detroit Chic enjoyed Sia's music before the show, seeing her live really solidified both her status as an interesting personality and as a vocal powerhouse.

                   Sia and Band 2
      Pictured: Sia lights up the Detroit stage.

      We strongly recommend you check out her music, if you haven't already.  Not everyone will find a fit in her powerful voice, but many listeners will enjoy and get into it.  And if you like her recorded music, definitely check out her live show, as it blows her recordings away.  At the end of the evening ,exhausted but ecstatic, the listeners shuffled out of the Magic Stick.  Between Har Mar's antics, Sia's powerful singing, her bands rollicking backing and the wild light show during her set, the crowd got more than their money's worth.  This was truly an energetic and fun show.

      While Sia will probably return to her native Australia, or possibly Zero 7 after the current tour, with her love of Michigan and her prolific recording record, it shouldn't be too long until she's back promoting her next album.  Be sure to check her out in the meantime, so you can experience her before she's bigger than she already is.  And as for the open-minded Har-Mar, he makes a quirky distraction, as well.