Sydney-based vocalist and producer Okenyo brings vibrant hip-hop beats and soul-driven vox to the Prince Bandroom this evening, engaging the crowd with her fusion of jazz, pop, rap and a touch of gospel.
Okenyo’s distinct vocal presence and confidence in her performance belies her as of yet relatively small fanbase. She masterfully switches from bold vocals to rapping, however the audio could be stronger to really bring this out. Her strong dynamics swell to a dramatic crescendo before the set ends, suddenly, to cheers from the room. She’s definitely one to watch.
Fans scramble in the interstitial period for the few good viewing spots. Those of us who are vertically challenged have little hope in this regard, for this is a sold out Splendour In The Grass sideshow.
99c, the title of Santi ‘Santigold‘ White’s recently released third album, decorates three colourful projectors around the stage to introduce her. She’s accompanied by two back-up dancers/singers — one sporting a bag of Cheetos on entrance — and two backing musicians in matching, oversized pin-striped blazers. Santigold’s own blazer, fluoro yellow turtleneck and big bouffant hair lend themselves to a real ’80s power-pop vibe.
Given the differences between her three albums, it’s notable that Santigold opens with the grimier You’ll Find a Way — a rougher offering from her 2008 debut, Santogold. She follows this with breakout single from the same release, L.E.S. Artistes, which sees her dancers incorporating selfie sticks as props while spinning cell phones adorn the screens. Her back catalogue is certainly a mixed bag, and this is demonstrated throughout the set; an eclectic mix of upbeat indie-pop and dance-driven RnB, occasionally punctured with bass-heavy beats.
Santigold apologises if her voice is “shit”, blaming the long flight over from the States. However, she has nothing to be sorry for. Her rapping chops and trademark crisp, shrill vocals are only enhanced in this live setting, her unique style almost recalling a big-band jazz singer. The latter is really emphasised on reggae-infused 99c single Chasing Shadows, a set highlight which incorporates both the pop-positive and melancholy aspects that define her body of work.
When Santigold removes her blazer, she reveals a yellow “WE BUY GOLD” dress. These kinds of ironic consumerist messages litter the show, and are reflected in her lyrics and videos as well as her outfits and set design. Projected images such as supermarket aisles and microwaves accompany a bubbly, high-octane set to create a cornucopia of shimmering mixed messages. She even includes two “intermissions” in the show – sardonic ads for digital, 3D printing which also allow for time for convenient costume changes.
It’s a dizzying barrage of people, colours and club vibes, bubbles filling the air while people spill in and out of each conceivable entrance. Some fans even opt to dance in the hallway simply to give themselves space. Even Santigold notices the fray and subsequently invites at least twenty people onstage to dance wildly for unrelenting Santogold rap single, Creator — though only on the condition that they put their phones away.
Before closing with the unabashedly sunny Can’t Get Enough of Myself, Santigold gives us a good-humoured crash course in how to pronounce her name — perhaps a special one for Australian audiences? “Suh-ntigold. Not Saaa-ntigold. Can you hear the difference?”
After a round of call and response, the message will have definitely sunk in. Armed with her winning smile, overly choreographed dance moves and insistence that she perform directly to all segments of the crowd — even those in awkward spots behind projectors — Santigold can’t help but charm all members of the wide-ranging crowd of fans, won over at varying times between 2008 and now.
Gallery: Santigold – The Prince Bandroom, Melbourne 20.07.17 / Photos: Nikki Williams