Santigold made the Commodore Ballroom the place to be on Saturday night
At the Commodore Ballroom on Saturday, May 26
Talk about an embarrassment of riches. Vancouver music fans had no shortage of entertainment options this past weekend. Friday night saw Bon Iver playing Deer Lake Park, with Jack White rocking the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Sunday evening. On Saturday night, Roger Waters was building a wall at BC Place, while Spiritualized was holding court at the Rickshaw. Whether Santi White was aware of it or not, part of her job that night was reassuring a sold-out crowd that, given the plethora of choices, it had spent its discretionary income wisely.
She came out swinging, opening Santigold’s set at the Commodore with the driving, primal "Go"—which opens her new album, Master of My Make-Believe—flanked by identically clad backup dancers. Those two never cracked a smile or removed their sunglasses, but they certainly earned whatever White was paying them. They acted variously as gold pompom-wielding cheerleaders, a precision drill team, and occasional backing vocalists, and their unwaveringly stoic demeanour was kind of awesome.
Of course, they were just an added attraction. The woman everyone had paid to see was the one at centre stage, and unlike her stone-faced retinue, she looked genuinely thrilled to be there. Her enthusiasm was as infectious as her music is uncategorizable. Actually, you could argue that it is possible to slot Santigold's material into categories, but you would need a different one for each song.
There's the bass-heavy dub-rap of "Creator", for example, which turned into an on-stage party when White invited what seemed like half the audience to join her. There's also the tribal chant-along "Freak Like Me" and the indie rock of “L.E.S. Artistes”.
White's three-piece backing band, consisting of a drummer, and a bassist and guitarist who each doubled on synthesizer, ably handled everything she could throw at it. And that was a fair bit. In addition to tracks from both of her albums, Santigold dug deep, pulling out the Major Lazer track "Hold the Line" and the Diplo mix-tape favourite “Get It Up”, the original version of which also featured M.I.A. and sampled heavily from Dirty South rapper Gorilla Zoe. Neither was in the building, so needless to say that one was given a truncated reading. White also got all meta-referential on our asses by performing part of Jay-Z’s “Brooklyn Go Hard”, which was partially based on a sample of her own “Shove It”. Naturally, she followed that up with the original, an exercise in steaming-blacktop urban reggae.
If she demanded a lot of the audience—who had to follow her as she slipped from one genre-mashing number to the next—White also delivered a great deal, and she often did so with a smile on her face, which made it all appear effortless. There’s no way in hell it was, of course, but Santigold performed with enough ease to make it seem as if she were just hanging out with 990 or so of her closest friends. It’s to her credit that there wasn't a moment all night when I thought, "I wonder what Jason Pierce is up to right now."