Los Angeles singer-songwriter Banks performed this past Saturday to a very enthusiastic and responsive Vancouver crowd. I have been a fan of Banks’s music for a while, but I tend to be a bit oblivious when it comes to how well-known a particular artist may be or what type of fan base they may have. Therefore, it was a bit surprising to witness the crowd’s excited response the second the singer walked out on stage. The sheer presence of Banks whipped the crowd into a frenzy, and based on the singer’s reaction, even she was caught off guard.
During much of her show, the singer was shrouded in darkness. Literally. The stage lighting was often dark or projected towards the audience rather than on the artist herself. Now, Banks is talented, there is no question. She has a melodic voice that can be raspy and deep but can also shift to sweet and soft. Her songs are brimming with emotion and have a clear rock and hip-hop inspired feel to them which greatly resonates with her fans. Strangely, it’s almost as if Banks is unaware she possesses such talents. She willingly admitted she was nervous and seemed genuinely amazed by the crowd’s pure adoration for her, but it was quite clear she is not yet completely comfortable as a performer. This is not a criticism – it was just odd to witness someone with such amazing abilities be a little timid and somewhat reserved in her performance.
It was not until she performed a cover of Aaliyah’s 1998 hit “Are You That Somebody?” that Banks seemed to relax a bit. While singing the R&B classic, Banks finally appeared as though she was comfortable on stage. She really got into it and gave the impression that she was becoming less reserved as the night progressed, especially in her interaction with the crowd. The rest of her set became way less inhibited, and I feel as though Banks needed to sing someone else’s music because she doesn’t trust that her own material is good enough. Well, by the reaction of the crowd, it is quite clear that her music is definitely good enough and that the audience wanted more – a lot more. However, because Banks’s debut album, Goddess, won’t be released until September 9, her set was a little on the short side.
Nevertheless, the emotionally evocative music and lyrics of her current song set are hauntingly beautiful and quite powerful. Standouts for me were “Change”, a song detailing the behaviour of an emotionally abusive partner, and “Warm Water”. The latter song is one of my favourites, and the music can be interpreted as almost seductive or sexy in its melody. But for Saturday’s show, Banks stylised “Warm Water” a bit differently. The music was a little more pop-infused, and because of that, the song became a bit cheekier in its delivery rather than seductive. But it was fun variation of the track.
Based on her music, which I already loved, and her ability to engage a crowd with her endearing, albeit somewhat reserved, presence, I hope Banks manages to realize that she is enormously talented and vocally unique. I’m more than ready to see a more confident performer the next time she comes to Vancouver.
Check out Vancouver Weekly‘s full photo set of Banks live at Venue Nightclub.