Live Review

BANKS, Shoreditch Town Hall, London

Debut show in a ridiculously grand venue boasts achievements and offers hints of brilliance.

LA songwriter Jillian Banks belongs in London. She makes the claim halfway through her debut show here, in the ‘sold out’ but not all that heaving Shoreditch Town Hall. She remarks about a month-long recording spree earlier this year which led to the coining of her first EP, suitably titled ‘London’. It’s a quick monologue between songs that’s followed up with countless ‘I love you”s and air-kisses, like she’s reached her crowning moment. Everyone in attendance knows this is just the beginning.

Everything from the pre-gig buildup to the ridiculously grand venue - it’s one that rarely, if ever, hosts shows - suggests this is a very big deal. Even forthcoming support slots alongside The Weeknd don’t come close to this. Bathed in smoke and with swimming, silky beats to boot, opener ‘This Is What It Feels Like’ is a nervous start. It relies too much on a backing track. The sheer occasion of it all seems to blind both performer and audience. What’s grizzly, sharp and sexy on record casts a slimy, impenetrable veil on stage.

But that’s the worst of it. Turns out there is a voice fighting its way through the cloudy ether. BANKS proves herself to be an artist who could’ve taken the standard talent show route, performed the odd Whitney Houston cover, sold a few hundred thousand; bish, bash, bosh. Instead she’s teamed up with super-producers, fusing seduction with pained expressionism on progressive tracks, buzzed to the heavens.

Despite all the credentials that surround her ‘London’ EP, the SOHN and Jamie Woon and Lil’ Silva production slots, when she strips things to the very bare bones, BANKS begins to stand out. The deranged, ravaged ‘Fall Over’ builds up from humble beginnings into a strobe-filled beast, ready to pounce. After a hair-on-spines cover, which is all about the vocals and very little else, she retreats back to her smoke-filled default. ‘Waiting Game’ is a step up from the set opener, but there’s a still a desire to see the real BANKS perform tonight. She gives hints of it - brilliant hints, in fact - but beyond the ‘I love you”s and the heart-on-sleeve speeches, and for all of ‘London”s achievements, that step forward still feels like a possibility, rather than a certainty.

Tags: BANKS., Features

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