Sia Furler learned a valuable lesson at Vancouver's Commodore Ballroom on Saturday: Excessive knitting and pop music can make for a dangerous combination.
In hindsight, the Australian-reared, Los Angelesbased singer-songwriter had no one but herself to blame for a tour kickoff that started out brilliantly and ended up a disaster. Had she not dressed herself up like an Eskimo, she might have lasted longer than five songs.
For starters, her stage setup looked like someone's grandmother had started knitting and couldn't stop. Monitors, amplifiers, speakers, microphone stands, and guitar straps were all covered in woolly crochet. At first it looked like the drum kit had escaped the woolathon, but if you looked closely, someone had stuffed a shawl in the bass drum.
Adding to the visual insanity were the striped blankets -- lemon-yellow, candy-apple red, tangerine-orange, and grape-ape purple -- that covered the floorboards.
Clearly determined not to be a wallflower at her own party, Sia hit the stage wearing about 20 pounds of rainbow-coloured wool.
The top half of her ensemble looked like a glorified toilet-seat cover; the bottom half had evidently been swiped from an aging hippie's 1970s-style couch. Offsetting this were zebra-print boots, and a giant set of text-embossed angel's wings -- the latter, she told the audience with a cackle, constructed out of every self-help book that she's ever read.
Her look was magnificent.
And for a good 20 minutes or so, so was Sia.
Grinning like someone who'd just won the Powerball lottery on Christmas morning, she led her four-piece band straight into the chilled-out funk-lite jam "The Fight," off her upcoming album, We Are Born.
The winged contraption came off one song in, with Sia noting, "It's fucking heavier than it looks -- it pushes on your diaphragm."
She thanked the audience profusely for coming out, marvelling at the fact that people paid more than $10 a ticket. She deftly grabbed gifts flung by audience members, snagging a tie-dye T-shirt while declaring, "I can catch flies with chopsticks, dude."
And she demanded to know if anyone in the crowd had brought knitting needles -- inviting one lucky respondent onstage to display her talents during the coffee-house-soul standout "The Girl You Lost to Cocaine". (It's a testament to Sia's sunny disposition that she didn't bust the volunteer for arriving on stage without wool or needles and for having the gall to sit there air-knitting like a French mime.)
Then, without warning, it all went bad.
Sia plunged into the Amy Winehouseflavoured new number "Be Good to Me," only to announce mid-song, "I think I'm going to faint."
Sitting down and pulling off her zebra-skin boots didn't help, so she hurried backstage. The band continued to play until she returned wearing a cooler-looking Egyptian-styled kaftan.
But it was obvious that something wasn't right, as she struggled to remember the words to "Be Good To Me."
Looking visibly shaken at the song's end, she announced, "I think I'm having an asthma attack" and left the stage again. She was smiling, obviously determined to put on a brave face, but that didn't stop her from mouthing the words"fuck me" as she and her band trotted off.
Moments later, bassist Sam Dixon appeared to inform the audience that Sia had overheated and needed 20 minutes to rehydrate. Some 45 minutes later, he reappeared to say that she was okay, but had severe heat exhaustion and was unable to continue.
The vibes were good enough during the abbreviated set that there was no booing, with the crowd seeming genuinely concerned for the singer.
As for Sia, now might be the time for her to ditch the knitwear and switch to Lycra.