See also: Santigold Discusses Bjork, MySpace, and The Death of MCA Santigold Crescent Ballroom Monday, June 4, 2012
Better Than: Every show I've been to this year. Seriously.
It's hard to imagine a show living up to as much hype as Santigold's Phoenix debut. The show sold out well in advance -- propelled by the strength of Santi White's combination of hip-hop, electronica, new wave, pop, reggae, and punk. But could her collective of musicians and dancers live up to the expectations?
Short answer? Yes. Long answer? Well . . .
White's band -- three men wearing turquoise clothing, ornate necklaces, matching socks, and rubber hats took the stage. The dancers, sporting identical white, yellow, and turquoise garb followed, walking backwards to lay out coins as some sort of red carpet for White. She took the stage with a huge smile and said, "This is going to be fun" as the group tore into "Go!," the first track from Santigold's latest album, Master of My Make-Believe.
The dancers mirrored each others' moves, waving gold pom-poms and supporting White after she did a mock faint. White continued to sing as the dancers dragged the limp singer around the stage. She was revived during the chorus just in time to stomp in unison with the dancers and sing "hey, hey, hey" to a crowd that enthusiastically echoed the lines.
White's vocal talent, stage presence, and colorful outfits were the main focus of the evening, but the dancers made the show that much more entertaining. The duo stood expressionless behind matching outfits and blue sunglasses, showing off all sorts of dance moves that probably work only at a Santigold concert. All that stomping and arm-swinging would look a little funny in a club, but it was a delight to see in concert. The choreography was completely on point.
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White left the stage at the beginning of "Hold the Line" as her dancers changed into what appeared to be modified versions of French maid outfits. The singer returned in a giant plush horse and re-emerged in a hybrid '80s/pinstripe shirt while the dancers tried to wrangle the horse with a rope. The horse was pretty random, but there's some neighing in the song, so it kind of makes sense.
"Disparate Youth" had one of the most enthusiastic audience responses of the evening. Fans loudly sang and bobbed along as the dancers twirled black and white parasols.
Things got really crazy during "Creator," when White invited fans on stage. The scenario played out like a Girl Talk show, except that fans actually knew how to dance (for the most part) and were able to sing along.
While fans shuffled back into the crowd, White once again left for a costume change as her dancers boogied to the beginning of "Freak Like Me". The gals started showing off their moves by sliding through each others' legs and rolling onto their backs.
White returned in gold and black garb and inquired about a purse she'd found on stage. "Who left their damn purse on stage? It's miiiiine," handing it to the presumable rightful owner.
The band's final costume consisted of shirts with White's portrait. Too bad there weren't any T-shirts for sale -- that would have been a cool piece of merch.
White asked if anyone was from Brooklyn. Some audience members booed, so she shrugged and sang "Brooklyn We Go Hard" (her collaboration with Jay-Z) dedicating it to herself. Despite the Brooklyn hate, the crowd continued to dance and spell out the borough's name.
The long set concluded with an energetic rendition of "Big Mouth,", which could very well be Santigold's best choice for a pre-encore song. "L.E.S. Artistes" or "Disparate Youth" would have been fun, but "Big Mouth" really got the mediocre white-girl dancers going. I say this because I was one of them -- we moved pretty much in any direction our bodies could go, vaguely imitating the dancers on stage and looking extremely silly in doing so. No one seemed to care.
The crowd beckoned for Santigold to return by chanting "Santi" over and over again. The two-song encore consisted of "You'll Find a Way" and a cover. White asked whether there were any Spank Rock fans in the crowd and introduced a "real, real nasty song" -- "B-O-O-T-A-Y." The song was pretty raunchy, but White and the gals really let their inhibitions loose one last time for a song full of smiles and booty-bouncing.
As Santigold started playing "Disparate Youth," I came to the conclusion that I was watching the best show of the year. Santigold was great at Coachella, but the experience had nothing on seeing the group in an intimate venue Monday night. Sure, the show would have been great somewhere like Marquee Theatre, but it would have been impossible to have White tower over you while she shook hands and handed off the mic to enthusiastic fans.
I'm sure the next time Santigold returns to Phoenix, the group will play at a larger venue, so Monday night was definitely a treat that showed off the Crescent Ballroom's potential. I overheard quite a few people saying it was the best show they had ever seen at the venue, and I would be hard-pressed to disagree. Santigold defied all expectations and the crowd welcomed the group with open arms.
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Setlist: Go! L.E.S. Artistes Lights Out Say Aha God From the Machine Get it Up Hold the Line Disparate Youth This Isn't Our Parade Anne I'm a Lady The Keepers Creator Freak Like Me Starstruck Brooklyn Go Hard Shove It Look At These Hoes Fame Big Mouth
Encore: You'll Find A Way B-O-O-T-A-Y (Spank Rock Cover)
Critic's Notebook: Last Night: Santigold at Crescent Ballroom. Personal Bias: I was a casual fan until I saw Santigold at Coachella, now I've had her albums in constant rotation. The Crowd: Worthy of Look at this Fucking Hipster, but had no reservations about dancing or striking up friendly conversation with neighbors. Overheard in the Crowd: "I danced to 'Creator' on stage like I do in my bedroom." One More Thing: White made so much eye contact with the audience that I felt bad for not having a better grasp of her lyrics.