Santogold, The Scala, London – June 5th, 2008
When RealMusic Blog told its one and only friend that we were going to see Santogold, she replied: “Like the health supplement?” So then, first thing’s first – Santogold, not to be confused with Sanatogen – although taken daily, both could potentially aid your body and mind.
Hailing from Philadelphia, Santi White is Santogold, who decided to unleash her new-wave sound solo after her punk band Stiffed called it a day. Jools Holland is a fan, and judging by the turn-out on a particularly drizzly weeknight in London Town, Santi is the belle du jour in these parts too.
So it was that a packed and distinctly sweaty Scala shimmied in spilt Red Stripe as the DJ warmed up the crowd with old Smiths and Police numbers. Then, 20 minutes late, on came the diminutive Ms Gold, shimmering in a yellow top covered in bats, along with de rigeuer shades, big hair, baseball cap and skinny trews. The US starlet held the crowd with her considerable stage presence, and in between songs educated us on some hip-hop terminology (jesus pieces, since you ask), and even got a scrawny-but-willing audience member up to dance but then looked perplexed when the crowd began to chant his name. Ah, the Anglo-American divide…
And what about the music? Santogold’s sound is difficult to pin down, but her genre-bending style has elements from indie, punk, rock, reggae, hip-hop and new wave (to name just a few). The tunes were belted out with some swagger, ably assisted by her two backing singers, who never cracked a smile and came over like scowling trolley-dollies forced to wear oversized sunglasses and dance in formation.
The problem with the show though was that in essence, it was simply Santi on vocals, a DJ and backing singers – and having no live instruments detracts from a live show. Still, the tunes on offer highlight the fantastic range showcased on her eponymously titled debut CD. Single “L.E.S. Artiste” is a pure burst of indie-pop, bringing to mind Ms Ditto or Ms Harry at their swashbuckling best. “Say A-Ha” kicks off with a ska beat and grabs you instantly; “You’ll Find A Way” mixes up elements of a song Gwen Stefani might give a go later in her career; and the fabulous “Creator” was still embedded into RealMusic Blog’s brain well after the plastic pint pots had been swept up and we’d been ejected from the building.
The crowd came expecting to be wowed – they’d normally be in watching CSI after all – and Santogold delivered. RealMusic Blog had a canny ol’ time, made even better when the really tall girl in front of us buggered off after the second song and we could see. Small things.