Concert Review: Santigold

Santigold, Amanda Blank, and Trouble Andrew, at Phoenix Concert Theatre (Toronto) on June 3, 2009

Toronto hipsters, scenesters, and all-around music aficionados turned out in droves to see Santigold (real name: Santi White) last night at the Phoenix Concert Theatre.
I showed up at the tail end of Trouble Andrew’s set. This self-professed crunk rocker is enthusiastic, super entertaining, and just a little geeky (but in a good way). Also, he’s Santigold’s fiancé, did you know? My concert buddies and I couldn’t take our eyes off a random guy in a mask who stood on the far right of the stage. We kept wondering what his purpose was. Suddenly he started tossing fake money into the air and we were like “ahhh…I see.” Well, not really.
After Trouble Andrew, Philadelphia MC Amanda Blank (real name: Amanda Mallory) – mostly known for her collaborations with Spank Rock – took the stage. My first impression of her was that she was some rich kid from the ‘burbs who used to get drunk at high school parties and sing along to rap records and then parlayed that into a career. She got off to a shaky start (fumbling lyrics and subsequently thanking her DJs for ‘saving her ass’) but hit her groove by the third song in her set. Also, she wasn’t wearing any pants (much to the delight of the males in attendance). Signed to Downtown Records, Amanda’s infectious blend of rap-meets-pop kept me interested [particularly her opening song ‘Might Like You Better (If We Slept Together)]. That said, she lacked stage presence and seemed, at times, to be more interested in tossing her hair around and looking sexy than what she was about the singing.
And now to the main event: Santigold. She’s constantly compared to M.I.A but frankly I like Santigold better, mostly because her voice is amazing and I would pay to listen to her sing the phone book. Sadly, the volume at the show was set a bit high and it was hard to fully appreciate the range of her voice. Hailing from Philadelphia but currently residing in Brooklyn, NY, Santigold (formerly known as Santogold – she changed her name after an infomercial jeweller with the same name threatened to sue) has been collaborating with Lily Allen and GZA for years. Her hugely popular blend of indie rock, reggae and ska/pop landed her with gigs opening for Coldplay and Kanye West. My fave part of her bio? She started as a A&R representative for Sony and Epic Records, then morphed into a songwriter and producer, then started singing. Lovesit.
From the second her two backup dancers took the stage, I was hooked. Clad in gold lamé American Apparel-style jackets, MC-hammer pants and sunglasses, these girls (my concert buddy compared them to Gwen Stefani’s Harajuku Girls) were a highlight of the show. Their combo of hip-hop moves, sexy shimmies and occasional militant-like posing had my eyes glued to them in anticipation of what they would do next.
Santigold’s set included “L.E.S. Artistes,” “You’ll Find a Way,” “Light’s Out,” “I’m a Lady” (blended into a cover of LL Cool J’s ‘I Need Love’), “Say Aha,” and “Creator,” (during which she invited 5 people from the crowd onstage to dance – a mixed bag of one good dancer, three mediocre dancers and one atrocious blonde chick clad in her finest ensemble from STITCHES who proceeded to do the start-and-stop method of dancing akin to Elaine’s dancing on Seinfeld).
Not to be outdone by her stage support, Santigold wore an eye-catching ensemble consisting of a one-piece printed jumpsuit over white pants and a long-sleeved white shirt with feathered hair and huge gold earrings. Not my cup of tea, style-wise, but she pulls it off.
All in all, the set was short, tight, and energetic. Santigold has a knack for giving the crowd exactly what they want and keep them begging for more.

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