Banks review: Crowd feels the love for the sultry singer
Jillian Banks may hail from Orange County, California, but she has a long-standing love affair with our capital city.
The electro-soul singer titled an early EP London and paid tribute to her second home during last night’s show in Hammersmith. “This is where my music was first accepted,” she told the crowd.
It’s fair to say that London loves her back. The largely female crowd inside the Apollo were word-perfect on every song, bellowing them back at her. The sultry, minimal R&B that characterised Banks’s latest album, 2016’s The Altar, has drawn comparisons with The Weeknd, but live she’s her own proposition.
A brilliant singer and dancer, she was compelling on the strutting set opener Poltergeist. Backed by a two-piece band and two dancers, the setup was as sparse as the music, something that drew further attention to Banks’s lyrics. These are confessional and invariably concerned with doomed relationships (would you expect anything else from a psychology major who wrote her thesis on “children of divorced parents”?).
“I’m thinking it over, how you make me feel all sexy but it’s causing me shame,” she sang on the conflicted gothic pop of Waiting Game.
When these confessionals are accompanied by big beats and earworm choruses, as on standout track This Is What It Feels Like, Banks is irresistible. But when the dancers disappeared and the pace slowed, things took a turn for the self-indulgent. A cover of Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car was preceded by a tale of how Banks thought her own voice was “too raspy” until she heard the deep and soulful tones of the great Chapman. But Banks isn’t this generation’s Tracy Chapman; she’s a popstar, and tracks like the arms-aloft Crowded Places were tailor-made for the masses.
Still, who needs self-awareness when you have so many other enviable gifts? Certainly not Banks, the wannabe outsider who’s really an odds-on favourite.