After the crushing news that Santigold had been forced to cancel her Vancouver appearance back in April due to a health issue, the Philly singer finally returned with a makeup show at the Vogue Theatre last Thursday.
A spread out crowd stood before opener Kilo Kish, a multidisciplinary artist who sings, paints, and even works in textiles. After skimming a few interviews with her, I gathered that conceptually, there might be more to this Orlando-born performer than I saw.
Although many of her songs had synth grooves deep enough to fall into, the disconnect between the music and her body language and delivery prevented me from fully immersing myself in her set. She sang and rapped lethargically, unsure and timid in her movements. She mumbled skeletons of melodies and rhythms the way one does when trying to write a new song their bedroom. Yet her vocals were cranked high above the woozy synth lines, high enough that the speakers crackled slightly.
Her set was incongruent visually too. One of the best parts was the projections: 2D triangular shards tunnelled towards the audience, each person in the crowd player one in a Star Fox level. But such elaborate patterns, and her bright red suit, only clashed with the wide open austerity of the stage and with how much distance there was between her and the synth player (the only person who accompanied her). The inhuman quality of drum machines can be alienating enough without all that space.
“Thank you guys for being so polite,” Kish said before clearing the stage for Santigold. Was that a sly dig at the crowd? Did she expect a worse reaction? Regardless, she left me with many questions about the intentionality of her entire display.
Santigold turned the vibes inside out. She landed bold, confident, and commanding. “Vancouver! I’m sorry for losing my voice! I didn’t think I was going to make it this far in the tour. I’m so glad you came! I’m so glad you came back!”
Santigold dispensed pop hit after pop hit with the one-two punch of “Lights Out” and “Say Aha” coming within the first handful of songs. She threw in some “Say what!?”s for kicks on the latter, eliciting the only appropriate response: “Aha!” She provided many opportunities to sing along, but…
…”Banshee” proved to have been the ultimate testament to her refined pop appeal: every line was its own anthem that fans joined in on.
Sadly (but completely reasonably), ILOVEMAKONNEN was unavailable to perform their excellent downbeat collab, “Who Be Lovin’ Me”. Instead of dueting with his pre-recorded presence though, Santigold sped through an abridged version by herself.
Her performance was prop-heavy and included several basic costume changes: discarding jackets, changing t-shirts, slipping into not pyjamas but “the best damned sweats” as Santigold described them. Her two dancers spun selfie-sticks during “Big Boss”. Stagehands rolled out a red carpet for “Rendezvous Girl” as paparazzi camera flashes consumed Santigold, who donned a white dress fit for a film premier. (In keeping with the motif, several Santi-branded logos were projected on a white curtain behind her, like sponsors at a festival.). The entire balcony rose to their feet with the bubbles that fluttered out of machines during “Disparate Youth”.
Before saddling into “Creator”, Santigold had a few questions for the crowd: “You guys warmed up yet? You wanna dance? You wanna dance up here? I’m gonna get you guys up here tonight.” As security escorted a score of fans onstage, she ordered them to put their phones away and to live in the moment, warning that if she saw any of their devices out, “I’ll fucking break ’em!”
The steady guitar rhythm on “Who I Thought You Were” and the blasts of buzzsaw guitar on “GO!” made me so thankful for live instrumentation, especially when a beat-oriented pop star such as Santigold could easily have taken a more rigid, produced route.
The dance choreography was often very out of sync, but combined with the live instrumentation, it served as a sobering antidote to the plastic world that Santigold’s vividly coloured, highly consumerist props and imagery projections of appliances, price tags, and grocery store aisles invited us into. The loose coordination further highlighted the moving, living parts of the performance, emphasizing that there’s stimulation in asymmetry, and that’s an idea I can buy into to.