Santigold’s Friday night Fun Fun Fun Fest set had the potential to be a show-stealing performance. Give her this: the woman knows how to use the stage to create a spectacle that’s both visually fascinating and sonically exciting.
The costumes (Santi appeared in a dramatically-printed, frilly dress, while her dancers wore what might be best described as tuxedo rompers) and props (those same dancers swung hammers and twirled umbrellas as the song called for it; at one point, members of her three-piece band appeared in a two-man horse costume) were the stuff of a headliner, bold and interesting, and the set list – drawn heavily from her outstanding recent album, Master Of My Own Make-Believe – was on-point, setting up a guitar-heavy dance party.
And while she delivered the dance party, and the visuals, there was also an element of things feeling rushed. That’s because they were, to be certain: Santi and her band emerged just after 8 p.m. for a set scheduled for 7:40 p.m. (Run-DMC were slated to go on at the same stage at 8:35 p.m.). When they did finally appear, some unknown technical glitch meant that the first thirty seconds of the normally-propulsive Master Of My Own Make-Believe opener “GO!” were silent, the song only becoming audible midway through.
Give Santi, the band, and the dancers credit for never flagging in energy despite the difficulties (based on this, and the fact that she had to interrupt the set immediately after the song to address a mic problem, one can assume that the late appearance was tech-related, rather than French-onion soup-based). It all had the effect of making a set built on precision — the timing of the dancers, the flow of the songs, and the setup of the stage — feel imprecise.
But that’s only a shame in the sense that some potential was probably lost. Santigold still brought it, calling for the audience to join her onstage to dance during “Creator” — forty-plus people took her up on the offer — and inspiring even the bros way in the back past the soundboard to sway with the music. Her voice is still perfect, a versatile instrument capable of switching from bubblegum rapping to the full-on belting of “GO!”’s bridge to the hushed tones at the end of “Say Aha.”
For Santi, the power of her music has always been in its ability to shift gears and surprise, and she’s every bit as capable of leading with her voice to do that in a live setting as she is on a record.
Before closing the set, which ran just a shade under 40 minutes, Santi addressed the crowd: “Unfortunately, we’ve only got one more, so we’ve gotta do this one real big,” she said before launching into “Big Mouth.” And she definitely did it big.
The only real disappointment to Santigold’s set, was that if it had gone down the way that it was drawn up — with the perfect fist-pumping opening of “GO!” working precisely and leading to the 50-minute tour of all of the styles that Santi’s comfortable working in that we can assume was scheduled — it would have been one of those unforgettable Fun Fun Fun Fest moments.
Instead, it was just really, really good. And it’s a testament to how much we’ve come to expect from Santigold that “really, really good” is something of a disappointment.