Live review: Santogold's sheen tarnished
- September 25, 2008 2:28 PM |
- By Arts Online
American singer-songwriter/producer Santi White, aka Santogold. (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone/Associated Press)
Man, Santi White needs a break. Between that whirlwind stint opening for Coldplay in massive arenas to her current club tour, it's clear that the woman behind beat-heavy dance-rock act Santogold is being worked like a dog by her label.
White's so burnt out right now, in fact, that prior to her recent Toronto show, her people decided to cancel the bulk of her preview press, claiming the multi-tasking singer/songwriter/producer/dancer was suffering from a brutal cold and had to preserve her pipes. Based on the amount of buzz that's been hovering around Santogold like a halo since before she released her album, you'd think she could sell tickets without any need for major pre-show promo. Sadly, judging from the turnout at Toronto's Guvernment club last night, White's show-going faithful could've used a little encouragement -- the place was possibly half-full, if that (or, for you optimists, only half-empty).
Not that absentee Santogold fans missed much. When I saw the Brookyln-based spitfire open for Coldplay at the cavernous Air Canada Centre a month or so back, I attributed her lacklustre performance to a combination of bad venue (a massive stadium was the worst possible place for a booming, dubby act designed to heat up dance floors; the treble vocals were buried in a muddy, fuzzy bass soup) + wrong audience (your average Coldplay fan is likely not someone who's gonna get Santogold's fizzy fusion of dub, rock, new wave, reggae and punk). Unfortunately, White didn't fare much better at the Guvernment gig.
First off, the full band that was on hand to flesh out her punchy tracks at the Air Canada Centre was nowhere in sight. Instead, a weedy DJ hovered behind his MacBook, laconically punching buttons to trigger backing tracks. It's not that there's anything inherently wrong with watching a decent vocalist do her thing alongside pre-recorded accompaniment, but the glorified karaoke shtick gets old pretty fast (there's a reason electroclash fizzled even before its fifteen minutes were up).
Bolstered by her twin backup dancers -- a po-faced pair who called to mind American Apparel models, clad in plastic shades and what looked like culottes made out of pearlized Hefty bags -- White still had a hard time maintaining energy levels. Even as she high-fived folks down front and peppered her set with a steady stream of affable banter, the singer looked tired. Her voice sounded strained, and the mix of fuzzy danceclub sound and the flattened digital versions of her pre-programmed songs didn't help.
Tellingly, nobody seemed upset when the lights came up immediately -- a signal not to wait around for an encore -- after White wrapped up her efficient set well before midnight and high-tailed it offstage.
Now, I maintain that the woman's self-titled debut is one of the most likable pop albums of 2008. Because I enjoy her recorded material so much, and because I know she has the ability to flourish in a live setting (she used to kill when she fronted her old band, Stiffed), I'm giving Santogold one more chance before writing off the act completely. Don't let me down, Santi White.
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