In the Mix: Sia’s “Nostalgic for the Present” Tour at the Hollywood Bowl

Concerts are my weakness. I love seeing how musicians translate their songs from sound to experience. Performing live makes artists credible: it exposes who can truly sing, who is a performer and who depends on studio tricks and camera angles. There is no hiding or faking the funk when it’s just the audience and the performer.

Since I’d been daydreaming about it all summer, I copped some last minute seats to see Sia at the Hollywood Bowl for her “Nostalgic for the Present” tour with Miguel and Alunageorge. Honestly I hadn’t really dug into Sia’s current album “This Is Acting” but she really got my attention a couple of years ago when she started featuring “Dance Moms” prodigy, Maddie Ziegler, in her music videos. (Yes I used to watch that.) Because of said videos and her award show performances, I knew Sia would be entertaining at the very least. Plus I was amped to finally see Alunageorge because “I’m in Control” was my summer sixteen theme, and I wanted to see Miguel again. I dig his sultry (and raunchy) vibe.

Timeliness is not my strong suit so by the time we got to the Hollywood Bowl and got in, we missed Alunageorge. Sigh. I’ve only been to the Bowl a few times but for this show security was super tight and it took us at least 20 minutes to get through the clusterf*ck of an entrance.

What I’m sad I missed.

We got to our seats in time to see Miguel hit the stage. I enjoyed his set at the Power 106 concert earlier this year so I was looking forward to what he’d do at a venue like the Bowl.

I was disappointed. His voice sounded good and the band was jammin’ but I couldn’t get past the fact that they were literally separated from each other. His stage setup consisted of large projector screens in an “X” formation with the band was on the sides. So you only saw Miguel in the front dancing and singing. Part of the joy of seeing musicians live is…actually seeing them play.

See what I mean? You only see a guitarist peeking out from the back…

As a dancer, there’s a chemistry that happens between the singer/dancer and the musicians. You’re creating something together. And if you’re connected, it’s a tangible energy that the crowd can feel and respond to. It’s communication and communion through music. That was missing and his show felt flat. The (drunk) girls next to us who were obvious fans agreed and noted they wanted to see some dancers too. Miguel, holla at ya girl (wink).

The highlight though was when he got a little political and kicked off a song asking us to put our hands up, then our middle fingers up and yell “Fuck Donald Trump.” I love a good call and response especially if includes the f-bomb and cussing out the Donald.

Next up was Sia. She was EVERYTHING. In contrast from Miguel, there was no band. But she brought her album to life with the dancers and visuals. Granted she earned a lot of buzz because of her music videos featuring Maddie’s phenomenal dance talent along with celebrities like Shia Lebeouf and Kristin Wiig. Wisely she incorporated the dancing and imagery into the live spectacle. Kristin Wiig made an appearance too!

Considering I didn’t know the latest album, I was incredibly moved by her show. For one, she can sing her @$$ off. Her rich tone vibrating through the Santa Monica Mountains gave me chills. The emotion emanating from her voice touched my spirit. Her lyrics embody strength, vulnerability and triumph particularly regarding love and its struggles — something that we can all relate to. My heart was full watching many mothers and their young daughters together in the audience clapping, bonding and singing along. Some of my favorites of the night were Elastic Heart, Cheap Thrills, Titanium and Alive.

I thoroughly appreciated how she used dance to animate her music. The concert wouldn’t have had the same impact without her ensemble. Sia stayed in the same corner for most of her set belting out her songs while Maddie and the crew jumped, spun and flipped all over the Hollywood Bowl stage. She also cleverly used the screens to accentuate the dancers’ facial expressions or to create another dimension of play with the dancers. Here’s an example:

Even the video makes me tear up. I’m sensitive.

Seriously though, I want people to understand the skill and endurance of these dancers. The set is about an hour long and they are dancing HARD. I was in the “cheap seats” but I’d switch between watching the screens and the stage because either way I could clearly see their intricate movements. It’s not just their physicality but also their faces. It’s how the dancers interact with each other and with Sia that creates the magic. That’s a lot to translate to 17,500 people in a massive outdoor venue but they executed it brilliantly.

Go see this tour, it just started. Treat yourself to an intense yet celebratory artistic journey of movement, light and sound. Don’t be a lollygagger like me and miss Alunageorge. Put your middle finger up and shout “Fuck Donald Trump” with Miguel. And make sure you are in your seat when Sia’s show starts. You don’t want to miss a note.

Me and my brother from another mother full of joy and vino :)
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