September 18, 2008
The songs are gold, but live they don't glitter. Koko, London (September 3)
As streams of ticker-tape blanket KOKO in silver, a gold lamé-jacketed chanteuse in brilliantly tasteless shades cuts some serious rug below, immersed in the electro-lollop of ‘Creator’. It should be a moment – the point where the Santogold live experience shakes off its karaoke shackles and mutates into something vital. But it’s not. Because that isn’t Santi White – it’s one of her backing singers.
Just as she doesn’t look comfortable vomiting gold on her album cover, tonight Santi often looks awkwardly stilted between her twin singer/dancer sidekicks, gesticulating half-heartedly. Blame it on this 30-something wasting time as an A&R rather than focusing her energies on her own obvious musical talent; point at the fact that the choreographed pizzazz of her robotically drilled backing band only amplifies her flaws; call it an off night, at a push. But the hard fact remains: Santogold isn’t quite the 24-carat pop star she should be yet. A perfect example is recent single ‘Lights Out’: on record, it’s an exercise in perfectly executed subtlety. Tonight it’s bellowed with all the class of a gakked-up Kerry Katona at a hen party. Thankfully it’s a solitary musical blip in a set packed with genre-bending highs. For now we’ll have to make do with the songs being the stars: ‘My Superman’ mutates from its sparse recorded version into an electro-hop Godzilla, while ‘LES Artistes’ is one of the decade’s greatest pop songs.
By the time an emphatic ‘Unstoppable’ closes the set, Santi starts to look like she’s enjoying herself, ending the song in perfect unison with her backing dancers. It’s only glimpse, though, of the globe-straddling pop star she could be. With everyone from Julian Casablancas to Kanye keen to collaborate, Santogold is hotter than a barbecue on the sun right now. But peforming live, she still leaves us a little cold.
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