Review: Santigold brings a world of influences to polymorphous set at Tampa's Ritz Ybor
There was a moment of glorious anarchy Monday at the Ritz Ybor when Santigold put out a call for fans to join her on stage. Upwards of 50 or 60 obliged.
“I might’ve overdone it,” the artist giggled nervously as fans packed in around her. “There’s so many people up here. I kinda f---ed up. But I love it.”
Then she and her new, sprawling posse launched into her glitchy, sci-fi, 2008 pop-rap gem Creator: “Me, I’m a creator! Thrill is to make it up! The rules I break got me a place up on the radar!”
That’s the Santi White we know and love, the polymorphous polyglot whose blend of art-pop, dancehall and punk has made her one of the past decade’s most delightful, and underrated, alternative acts.
The rest of the show never quite matched the glee of that on-stage dance-off, but the Philadelphia native’s first Tampa Bay show since opening for the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2012 – and her first headlining show period – served as a solid reintroduction to her unpredictable musical stylings. Often misidentified as a rapper (though she does rap), she mostly stuck to singing, and didn't mind offering a refresher on how to pronounce her name (SAHN-tee-gold, not SANTY-gold).
A third of the set was pulled from her 2008 debut Santogold (the way she spelled her name at the time), including Lights Out, a breezy blend of New Wave power-pop and California beach rock; Say Aha, an upbeat blast of jittery go-go punk; and Shove It, a dubby nod to Sandinista!-era Clash.
All the while, Santigold was flanked by two dancers decked in the trappings of her consumerism-conscious new album 99¢: Oversized T-shirts and shorts, clutching selfie sticks and eating Cheetos from inflatable chairs. Their presence seemed equal parts satirical and campy, yet was distinguished by a sense of J-pop discipline and commitment to choreography.
As images of shopping aisles, price labels and tanning beds spun behind her, White sang in one dress covered in logos referencing her own songs; another bearing the cheekily self-referential phrase “WE BUY GOLD.” Her Warholian message wasn’t buried too deep; she's had far more success licensing her songs to advertising campaigns (Honda, Bud Light Lime) than on the radio or the charts.
But her self-for-sale message might’ve landed a little harder if the music had just a little more oomph.
Santigold’s backing band consisted of just two members, a drummer and a keyboardist/guitarist (White strapped on a bass for the fuzzy, Ramones-y Who I Thought You Were). Taking nothing away from their performance, you couldn’t help but wonder how much richer they could have sounded with another instrumentalist or two. When a guitar came slicing through the bubbly Disparate Youth or the yelping, hissing GO!, the uptick in energy was palpable. The chugging, stomping All I Got was hard not to wag to, but with a bigger bass and another guitar, it might’ve really set the place screaming.
It was, of course, possible that one band might not have been able to keep up with Santigold’s mad whips from style to style. The percussive Unstoppable spanned hemispheres, encompassing elements of Indian, African and Caribbean pop and rap. Freak Like Me mixed Middle Eastern vocal chants into a dancehall rhythm. Chasing Shadows featured light, airy vocals over a dubby, calypso-tinged beat.
Her encores were just as eclectic – Major Lazer’s Hold the Line, with its twangy spaghetti-western intro and surf-rock guitars; and her own frizzy, kinetic Big Mouth, whose thick moombahton pulse got the clapping crowd into a roiling roar.
It wasn’t quite anarchy, but Santigold wore like a riot nonetheless. That's what party-starting creators tend to do.
-- Jay Cridlin