"I really did come here last time I was meant to play," says Santogold, by way of explanation for the rescheduling of this date from a little over a month ago. "I just couldn't talk!"
It's nice of her to make the apology and all, but there's something about the sparkly Philadelphian that makes you wish she hadn't bothered – a kind of confident sureness that you might otherwise hope translates itself into "no apologies" bravado.
Santogold (Santi White) manages to bridge the divide between agreeably tough and sisterly at once, complimenting the dancers in the front row and inviting one fearsome shape-thrower – a young woman named Vicky – on stage during "Unstoppable". "Show them how bad-ass you are," instructs White, "and if anyone thinks they can do any better, step right up."
No one else does, and only a character as apparently bolshy as the one White picked to join in would dare reckon they could keep up with the Santogold show. The singer is performing to a backing track, yet she and her dancers snare the attention. This is no mean feat, considering her short stature – she appears to be wearing a white vest, but the rest of her outfit is lost from view in this low, sweaty club venue.
The caramel-coloured bob and the red-rimmed shades are distinctive, though, while the pair of dancers flanking the stage are just fantastic. Pretty girls in puff-sleeved white blouses and white-rimmed sunglasses, they execute body pops, robot dances and other minimal street-dance movements in clockwork, stern-faced harmony. The spectacle is reminiscent of Public Enemy's martial security guards S1W (Security of the First World), by way of Selfridges' cosmetics counter.
The music is similarly precise, mostly segueing from a rich dub sound to a just-as-deep-bassed but more electronic style. Oddly, though, there are occasional lapses into unashamed MOR commerciality. "LES Artistes", for example, is soft rock of the kind Gwen Stefani might involve herself in during her less audacious moments. Yet that seems to be the point.
While songs such as "Shove It" and the thumping closer, "Creator" (accompanied by a joyous all-girl stage invasion), retain the club cachet which sees White booked to play shows such as this, her mainstream tracks are responsible for credible inroads into the American market. With this set coming in at a mere but deservedly well-received half-hour long, Santogold must be saving her voice for all the even bigger stages which lie ahead.