I will now attempt to write a Santigold review without mentioning M.I.A.

Wait ... drat! I blew it already. Oh, well. Take that as further proof that the M.I.A. comparisons, which have dogged Santi "Santigold" White since the very start, aren't going away anytime soon.

That's OK, however, since there is certainly room for two charismatic singers who meld electronic and world music styles into addictive dance-pop tunes in the studio and can also deliver the goods on the live stage.

Santigold certainly proved capable of the latter during her 75-minute set Wednesday at the Fox Theater in Oakland. She was a magnetic presence, even better onstage than she is in the studio.

What a lucky break for local Santigold fans. The 36-year-old Philadelphian isn't even really touring North America. She was in the Bay Area to perform a corporate gig in San Francisco and the fine folks at Berkeley's Another Planet Entertainment convinced the star to stay another night.

Santigold was certainly OK with that situation.

"It's been a long time coming," she said to the full house early in the evening. "You guys know you are my favorite audience, right?"

The sentiment was returned, in spades, by the enthusiastic audience, which bounced and boogied along with all of the selections from Santigold's two studio albums, 2008's "Santogold" (yes, that's how she used to spell her name) and this year's "Master of My Make-Believe."


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It was an evening of exotic music and even more exotic visuals. Santigold made her entrance in dramatic fashion, with the star and her two side dancers/singers moving onto the stage in cool outfits that shone under the fluorescent lighting. The room was otherwise softly lit, making it look, to some degree, like the fluorescent yellow patterns were boogying all on their own. The actual players were basically shadows, with the costume design playing the starring role.

From there, the visuals continued to play an important role during just about every number. Some were striking, while others were just plain goofy. There was the segment with the cheerleaders, who apparently must cheer at Day-Glo High, and one featuring two guys in a horse outfit -- both of which qualified for the goofy side of the equation. The most memorable, however, came when Santigold called dozens of fans onstage, which resulted in a massive dance party.

Santigold and her two side dancers/singers were backed by a solid three-piece band, which did an excellent job translating the singer's complex studio songbook for the setting. I particularly liked what the band did with "Get It Up," which was built on a hypnotic tribal grove, and "The Keepers," constructed from intriguing micro-beats.

Santigold's vocals are every bit as interesting as her music. She has a very unusual vocal delivery. It's a weird mix of slurring and blurting, which makes understanding the lyrics nearly impossible. Yet, it's still quite appealing. She did some of her best vocal work of the night on "Freak Like Me" and, especially, the soulful "Starstruck."

In all, Santigold certainly proved her merit at the Fox. Watching her onstage, I made a pledge to never mention Santigold in the same sentence with M.I.A. ever again.

Wait ... drat. I did it again.

Follow Jim Harrington at http://twitter.com/jimthecritic, www.facebook.com/jim.bayareanews and http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/category/concerts.