There are a few reasons you should have Banks on your music radar; the first being she’s still fairly unknown in the UK so there’s a catalogue of hidden treasure tracks for you to go and indulge in. Secondly, even though the charts are saturated with female solo performers, Banks offers a moodier; more refined take on art pop. Thirdly, she has a knack for writing intense pop bangers that thankfully don’t get depressing three tracks in.
The Manchester Academy date was the last on her tour for ‘The Altar’; her second album that’s a collection of heavily synth flavoured R&B tracks that border on the experimental. The venue was about three quarters full of hardcore fans, though she’s something of an underground name over here as opposed to being better known back in her native USA. Banks, real name Jillian Rose Banks, entered the stage under a flood of blood red lights covered by a Bride like sheer black veil, slow, booming bass beats with her two backing dancers following her; like she’s walking up to ‘The Altar’, get it?
Crowd pleaser ‘Fuck With Myself’ broke the ice for Banks to glide through the set list of what was a generous compilation of current hits and older tracks from debut LP ‘Goddess’. Softly spoken and almost doll like, she rarely interacted with the audience only to tell them; “it’s so strange to see people singing the lyrics I’ve written right back at me”. She possessed a vulnerability that made her more endearing, especially on confessional lullaby ‘Crowded Places’ that had the whole Academy waving there arms side to side in solidarity.
She may not have the strongest vocals in the game, nonetheless she sings with control and grace. Banks’ main USP is her talent for creating slick, sharp, synthy tracks that contrast with her fragile voice. You could hear this best when she performed ‘Gemini Feed’ that saw the crowd’s reaction grow towards the climactic end.
Dressed in head to toe black sheer fabric, Banks’ two dancers stayed in solemn character the whole set. The choreography was distorted, quick and sharp. Their urgent, jagged moves complimented the slick synth tracks; to be honest most of the time I was watching them more than Banks herself (sorry Banks). The trio came together best when they performed the very last track of the night ‘Underdog’. Draped in black leather trenches (an homage to mid 90s Aaliyah, a big inspo for Banks) she gave an impressive performance of what could be, given the right marketing and music video, her breakout hit, FINALLY.
Words by Tom Frodsham.
Fancy listening to some of the best artists performing across Manchester in the coming months? Listen below for our latest playlist previewing those in town for this month’s best shows!