It's been four years since 2008's Santogold, which thirtysomething Santi White recognizes is eons in music-biz years. "It's been a long time, but you are guys are still here," she marveled three songs into a bogglingly tight set at Brooklyn's Music Hall of Williamsburg last night in New York, a gold crown perched on an angle atop her head. "We are so, so happy to be back — and we are back. This is just the beginning."
White said she was ecstatic to be back onstage and she looked it, too, grinning her way through 18 songs ranging from Santogold favorites "Creator," "L.E.S. Artistes," and "Say Aha" to as-yet-unreleased cuts from her upcoming sophomore disc Master of My Make-Believe, like self-empowerment anthem "God From the Machine," featuring her pair of SG-1 dancers/singers/cheerleaders/mind-blowers standing stick-straight at the front of the stage bashing out marching-band snare beats on drums affixed to their waists. White also tested out "Freak Like Me," a track that began with a squelchy dupstep intro before moving into a sing-songy vibe reminiscent of Rihanna's recent Talk That Talk. White had told SPIN the song is simply about self-acceptance. "I watch TV and all the Real Housewives and Kardashians shows are shocking to me. It's upsetting," she said this summer. "Everyone has plastic surgery. Everyone's fighting and trying to win the affection of some guy. But everyone's a freak, you know? I've never been in the mainstream with my style or choices. So I wanted to write a song about us all being freaks."
Onstage, White didn't come off like a freak — just a freakishly well-rehearsed pop star. Backed by a trio of musicians wearing blond flat-tops and matching outfits, White nailed her vocal parts (though she appeared to be singing with a backing track at times), executed three wardrobe changes, welcomed a fake horse to the stage, passed the mic to opener Spank Rock, and in a less fortunate moment, invited some of the city's most awkward dancers up to gyrate to "Creator." Her one warning: "Stay the fuck away from my girls. They kick and they've been known to slap people in the face."
She launched the show with "Go," the Karen O and Nick Zinner collaboration posted on Jay-Z's Life + Times website in April (Santi is now a member of the Roc Nation family) and grooved her way out the door after vowing this was truly only the beginning. "I've been away a long time and I've been working really hard a long time and I've been ready a long time and they finally let me come back," she told the crowd. She'd danced her crown off by that point in the night, but there was no question one of 2012's pop queens was certainly in the building.