It’s always dangerous to confuse a singer with her songs, but that’s nearly impossible to do with the Australian singer Sia Furler: at the El Rey, her music and personality made nearly opposite impressions. Her voice expresses a knowing maturity — her brassiness often gives way to a soulful sadness, the way she slides off the notes gives her phrasing a melancholy edge. But everything else about the show leads you to believe that Sia could be a great host of a kid’s show.
She and her five-piece band kick off their 75-minute set wearing homemade day-glo costumes and masks, performing before a pink backdrop with a child’s drawing of a blond girl standing below a rainbow and a semi-circle of neon sculptures shaped like a kindergartener’s idea of trees. Lucia Ribisi, the 10-year-old daughter of thesp Giovanni, sings with her on the first two songs.
Sia’s nasal and scratchy speaking voice is made for cartoon voiceovers and she speaks with a refreshing lack of guile; she introduced “Breathe Me” (from the “Six Feet Under” finale) simply as “my big hit,” asked her band “would you like that?” before introducing them, announced fans’ birthdays from the stage, and admonished others when they created an X-rated tableaux out of the various stuffed animals along the rim of the stage.
But when she sings, that all fades away. On songs from her upcoming album “Some People have Real Problems” (due early next year on Monkey Puzzle Records) her voice swoops and moans, mingling sadness with relief on “Little Black Sandals,” a tart brittleness to “The Girl You Lost to Cocaine” and a edge of sadness to the McCartneyesque melody of “You Have Been Loved.”
But instead of counteracting each other, the two sides of her perf are more than the sum of their parts. Like a chocolate cake doused in rum, it’s sweet, but packs a kick.
Sia plays Gotham’s Highline Theater on Nov. 5.