At a festival dominated by guest appearances, Sia’s Sunday Coachella set had plenty of them. But as the dust between festival weekends, it’s worth noting the transgression behind Sia’s set. It inverted the whole concept of a main-stage star turn while proving that she is as good a pop star as she is a singer and songwriter.
The misdirections of her set involved beautiful prerecorded music videos, which closely mirrored onstage performances in ways that hit a kind of uncanny valley. The clips, featuring Kristen Wiig, Tig Notaro, Paul Dano and others, were velvety, evocative dance numbers that looked amazing on Coachella’s new wraparound video monitors.
The setup was so good, in fact, that she had to issue a statement clarifying who, exactly, was onstage and their relationship to what was happening in the videos. (Maddie Ziegler and Stephanie Mincone, with male dancers Wyatt Rocker, Nick Lanzisera and John Litzler, as directed by Sia and Daniel Askill with choreography by Ryan Heffington.)
Amid all the hype surrounding Guns N’ Roses this weekend, Sia is something rarer and all the more exciting right now -- a pop star who found a new way to hide in plain sight onstage. She sounded great, of course, with a set split between favorite singles, covers and cuts from her new album “This Is Acting,” a witty selection of songs she wrote for other artists who previously declined them. That record itself was a comment on the strange nature of authorship in collaborative pop music. Live, it took on new layers complicating what it means to write and perform.
The way she played it, everyone was on stage, and no one was at all. That’s a headliner move we’ve never seen before, and in hindsight, made for an actual moment no one saw coming.
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