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Santigold At Hammerstein Ballroom, Saturday, April 30th, 2016. Review


I am a huge, I mean huge,  fan of the alt-pop wunderkind Santigold. In 2009, they closed the gates at SummerStage before I could get in, so I sat in the grass outside and listened to the entire set. Santigold  was a year past her excellent eponymous debut album, and nearly a decade past her years as the lead singer of Philadelphia punk rockers, Stiffed. I remember that concert very well, sitting with some other fans in the warm sun singing along to “Creator”. Santigold (born Santi White!) performed the beloved “Creator” last night at the Hammerstein as well, she invited maybe fifty members of the audience on stage, and she was sparkling, witty, moved so well, and the audience members on stage  and the audience were well into it. But it sounded terrible. It was so bass heavy, it felt like I’d just wandered into a Kurtis Blow gig in 1979. All I could hear for that bloated boom, which didn’t even fit in. With a three piece band and two dancers behind her, she should have sounded like a rock and soul punk band not like a rapper without headphones.

And with her third terrific album, 99 Cents, which has improved since I first heard it a couple of months ago, in pocket, and lots of terrific tracks from her catalog to choose from, and with an energetic, sweet disposition, even when she mentioned fighting with  another girl at this very venue for pushing her sister, and with a great decision making process metting out the hits and they woulda been hits if she choose to release them as singles, with equal enthusiasm, Santigold was stymied by the sound. All you could hear was the damn bass, on a song like the masterful “Lights Out” dream pop, it wasn’t where it should be. It couldn’t compare to the recorded experience, nothing last night compared to the records.

The sound hurt the opening acts less. DonMonique is a fine young rapper, doing something she has dubbed Thirst Trap, and with just a DJ, she was fine., quite comfortable on stage and with a receptive audience and I’ll take trap over dubstep all day every day and I was fine with it. Next, Leikeli47 was beyond great in a swift and powerful 30 minute of straight up no chaser rapping between the raindrops. She spits it hard and well, and can throttle a hook and have the entire audience singing along. Leikeli47 wears a ski mask… I mean all the time. A really stupid idea but if you don’t forgive her, check out her rap from  Baauer’s top top top album Aa on “Day Ones” and you will. Her own “Heard Her Say” is a self help stroke that brought the house down. “If you’re really gonna do it, don’t stop do it”. It is really a golden age for female rappers. I’ll take Angel Haze or Azealia Banks, Dej Loaf… over Drake A$AP Rocky, just about everybody not named Yeezus.

Both acts were hurt by the sound, but it destroyed Santigold’s set. I can’t express how exciting it is to see Santigold put on an electric guitar for her alt rocker pop track “Who I Thought You Were” -which sounds like New Order as a power pop band, and have it sound like “The Breaks”.

It is really my one complaint. Oh, the stage was a little threadbare, but the entire 99 cents shop as you go concept handles that. Plus, Santigold looked great, and her two dancers moved well and Santigold can really dance, not flashy, not aerobics, not bang em hard Bey, but well, in time, smooth and thrilling. She opened with the terrific M.I.A.ish “You’ll Find Away” -a great mix and match between EDM and r&b, and continued with her huge “Les Artists”, the sort of song that has pop fans like yours truly salivating, and from there and for 90 minutes, the setlist was completely flawless and to what avail when all you can hear is the bass?

This is the third show I’ve seen this year ruined by the sound, Santigold deserved better.

Grade: B

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