Sia’s thrills aren’t cheap during tour’s closing stop in Austin

On Sunday night at the Frank Erwin Center, Sia ended what was her first North American tour in five years with all the wigs, former stars of “Dance Moms” and interpretive choreography you’d hoped for. Over-sized props and minimalist stage design served to remind you this wasn’t just a performance — it was performance art.

Scott Moore/Scott Moore/for American-StatesmSia with special guests Miguel and AlunaGeorge perform at the Frank Erwin Center at The University of Texas in Austin, Texas on November 6, 2016 - Photo Credit: Scott Moore/for American-Statesman

Scott Moore/Scott Moore/for American-Statesm Sia with special guests Miguel and AlunaGeorge perform at the Frank Erwin Center at The University of Texas in Austin, Texas on November 6, 2016 – Photo Credit: Scott Moore/for American-Statesman

Although presumably the person you bought the ticket to see, Sia did not take center stage, acknowledge the crowd (except for a “Hi, Austin” mid-song) or even once peek through her color-blocked curtain bangs.

Instead, she let the 14-year-old face of dancer Maddie Ziegler do all the talking. It’s Ziegler who beat her chest to opener “Alive” and contorted her face into grimaces and manic smiles while dancing atop a table in “Reaper.” There’s a reason why she always crowned the “Dance Moms” pyramid — she is a very, very good dancer. Even later, while donning a giant panda mascot head for belter “Titanium,” Ziegler was the drive behind Sia’s powerful voice brought to life.

you guys, we did it. i cannot believe we finished the end of our tour. we've cried we've laughed and most of all we've become family. you guys have changed my life for the better. thank you @sirheffington and @dennathomsen for teaching me to grow and explore things i never thought i would do. thank you @thetonyabrewer for being my second mom and just being such a role model to me, i love u. thanks to @wigsfromscratch for always making sure my wig is pinned in tight. thank u to all the dancers for just being the best brothers and sisters in the world. thanks to @stylistbrooke @stasiamags @wizardboobs for all the laughs and making sure my costumes are perfect. thank u to the AMAZING crew for everything. and lastly, thank you to someone i look up to and love the most, @siathisisacting you make my life so much better 💘

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It might have taken concert-goers more than one song to figure out that the high-definition video playing on the big screen was not, although perfectly synchronized, a live recording of what was happening on the stage. But pre-recorded shorts that rolled in between songs, featuring cameos by a variety of artists, soon clued you in. Just as with Ziegler, Sia has very carefully selected actor Paul Dano, comedic talents Kristen Wiig and Tig Notaro, and “Transparent” actress Gabby Hoffman to put faces to songs like “Diamonds” and “Unstoppable.”

No one wants to see Kristen Wiig cry. But the image, when set to Sia sing-warning, “Danger is coming, danger is coming,” was strangely cathartic.

And where was Sia throughout all of this art and show? In a white dress and bow, unmoving in a back corner of the stage, Sia did exactly what her performances and music videos of recent months have warned you she’d do: sing with her face covered.

PHOTOS: Sia at Frank Erwin Center

Although her singing almost served as a mere soundtrack to the performances on stage, Sia was not a forgotten presence. You repeatedly glanced back to check if her hand had moved from the microphone stand, or if you might have seen in her body language a little of the enormous emotion her voice portrays.

After closing number “The Greatest,” Sia thanked Austin for being the “perfect” last stop on the “Nostalgic for the Present ” tour. The big screen cut to a short clip, which followed Ziegler off stage as she made her way to the dressing room where Sia, sans wig, congratulated her on a great show and the pair laughed and joked around.

Turns out it was acting after all.

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