5/3/16 – House of Blues

Two women strutted over to the blow-up cushions onstage, clutching bags of crunchy Cheetos and bottles of blue Gatorade— the first of many brands that assaulted the audience’s senses at Santigold’s concert that night.

The duo sat down to munch on their orange cheese snacks with the what’re-you-looking-at faces of high school queen bees – an attitude to match their oversized “Big Boss” shirts. Meanwhile, Santigold strode on stage, chanting hit song “L.E.S. Artistes” as she shrugged the puffy shoulder pads of her oversized pinstriped suit.

Tonight’s concert was a stop on the We Buy Gold Tour to promote Santigold’s latest album, one that scoffs at the absurdity of the commercialization of our lives. Apparently, Santigold decided the best way to do that was to drown us in objects of consumerism. At one point, there was even an advertisement for a 3D printer – one that made Pez dispensers and mugs shaped like Santigold’s face.

It wasn’t long before Santigold’s two dancers were on their feet, where they stayed for the remainder of the set. As they swiveled in perfect synchronicity, twirling selfie sticks like batons, it became clear these ladies weren’t just backup dancers — they were an essential part of the experience.

Indeed, the musical elements of the performance sometimes faltered. Songs were often anchored to their recorded versions as sampled sounds marked the start and end. And, though Santigold doesn’t display much vocal prowess on her albums, it consistently felt like Santigold was shouting her lyrics rather than singing them.

“I just want to let you know I’m the worst bass player in the world” Santigold said (quite honestly) as she pulled out what was arguably just another prop. Clearly, this wasn’t a display of vocal and instrumental mastery, but rather, an exhibition of an artistic vision.

The night was broken down into chapters of sorts: each complete with a set change, a series of projections, and a new outfit. The setlist spanned her musical career: hits from her 2008 debut and Master of My Make-Believe sophomore release sprinkled the set, a remarkably varied selection considering the tour was promoting 99¢.

Throughout the show 90s computer graphic projections shone behind the band: The Sims-style renderings of spinning tanning beds and flip phones, dozens of dancing cats, time lapses of supermarket aisles, and hundreds of 99 cent price stickers flashed at the crowd.

Clearly, this performance was one that was rehearsed over and over. It wouldn’t have been difficult to connect the visuals with the music – the microwave ovens onscreen could have easily been set to open and close their doors to the beat.

Had Santigold come only with the music and projections, the production may have fallen short. But the two dancers proved there was more to them than orange cheese dust covered fingers. They shook their booty and opened their trench coat costumes in time with the beat, revealing gold chains. They brought back middle school sprinkler-style moves and pushed actual shopping carts in figure eights. On “Chasing Shadows” they looked like marble statues, stiff with a hand on the hip as the circular platforms they’re standing on slowly rotated — life-size dolls on display. The SG1 dancers (as they’re known) displayed a wide range of dance styles, a mix Santigold has actively sought out and crafted.

Yet the most admirable feat was that even with all of the faceless commercialization, the props and calculated dance moves, Santigold still created authentic interactions.

Some artists — St. Vincent comes to mind — sacrifice showing real feeling and humanity for the sake of maintaining a carefully crafted character inside the concert hall. Instead, Santigold spent the night flashing smiles and making eye contact with fans as she led a call-and-response for the oh wah’s of “Disparate Youth” as two machines pumped thousands of bubbles into the air. And of course, there was her invitation to the crowd to join her onstage during “Creator.” Front row fans scrambled over the barriers, and in the end the stage filled with about thirty people who danced with Santigold under one condition: no phones allowed. It was time to live in the moment.

As the brash, in-your-face “Big Mouth” encore closed the night the projections became a mashup of previous images. The digital dancing Santigold figurine became twisted and distorted, flickering into a manipulated mess.

On their way out, some fans stopped by the merch table, where they could (conveniently) buy the same yellow “We Buy Gold,” “Big Boss,” and “99¢” shirts that Santigold and crew had worn only minutes earlier. What did you expect? All artists got to make money somehow.

Pure Entertainment: Santigold
PROS
  • Thought-out production
  • Authentic fan interactions
  • Variety of dance moves; synchronicity of dancers
CONS
  • Vocals were lacking
  • Rehearsed nature meant little room for improvisation
8.2Overall Score

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