Banks’ first show in London sold out in minutes. There’s a list of people as long as Ron Jeremy’s beef who have been singing the LA songwriter’s praises recently, and she is a decent bet for just about every 2014 list going. Riding this particular wave is a fine art, a dud showing in the live arena can ruin what months of hard-fought column inches and fawning blogs had built up.
It’s an important show for her, firstly because it’s London and that’s the centre of the universe DUH. But also because London was the title of her most recent EP. The whole thing was written here on a three week trip earlier this year, which caused her to scrap the previously planned material she was going to put out. Thirdly, the room has eight chandeliers. Ain’t no Joe Nobodies playing in a room that’s got eight chandeliers.
With her shadow licking up the walls of this extravagent Victorian venue, Banks glides out elegantly like a black-clad Hollywood mermaid. She is joined by a two-piece band with a basic set-up of drums+laptop and guitar+keys. They do a good enough job of putting together the myriad of textures that weave around Banks’ sound.Despite the distant, isolated aura of her music she makes an effort to connect with much of the crowd despite being visibly nervous.
Banks’ voice channels the power of this aural landscape with a disarming potency. When talking about Electronic-music with delicate vocals it’s very easy to bring up glacial comparisons, mainly because they usually fit. But Banks’ delivery feels far more fluid, the intimidating structure has been melted into something that you can cast yourself off into.
A cover of Lauryn Hill’s ‘Ex-Factor’ is eased out, a restrained passion retains the intrinsic soul of the original even if this performance no longer confines itself to the dictionary definition of what Soul music is. It’s a stripped-back, slowed-down cover that’s pleasurable to have in your ears but not desperately begging to be in some godawfully vapid Christmas advert, so that’s always a plus. On ‘Bedroom Wall’ her melancholy imploring of “do I have to write it on your bedroom wall you fool?” impressively avoids becoming overtly dramatic, yet still convincingly tugs at you.
A significant portion of the vibe created in her performance is via the excruciatingly patient backing band. Often holding back with shimmers and clicks, they make you earn the impressive crashes and strobes. You could probably count on one hand how many times they make a huge sound, but their constant murky presence feels predatory.
Her encore consisted of an acoustic version of ‘Warm Water’, the synth replaced by a guitar that added a light Jazz feel to it. It sparked images of strolling past a café and seeing a lone patron folding a newspaper to one side as his lunchtime coffee arrives. It could be in San Francisco, it could be in Paris. It was a smart switching of sounds, offering an answer as to how a slow-moving show like this could be stretched past support/festival set length without veering into tedium.
This was basically a glorified showcase, 40ish minutes and no opening act. A warm-up to her support slot for TheWeeknd in far larger venues later this month. It answered the right questions about her potential – mostly positively – but still left room for more to be revealed in the new year. We’re looking forward to it, and we suggest you keep an eye out too.