Banks – The Independent, San Francisco 05/28/2014 (Show Review)

Despite having a voice that reverberates and penetrates, Jillian Banks, known by her musical nom de guerre BANKS, is clearly shy. She humbly and quietly thanks the packed crowd at San Francisco’s The Independent for attending her sold out show, then immediately injects a healthy dose of soulful vitriol with the song “Brain.” Throughout the night, BANKS stormed each side of the stage with a ferocious tenacity, laying her emotions at stage front with every song sounding like a catharsis.

The Los Angeles-based artist carefully constructs a thick atmosphere with her music, pulling you underwater then ripping through the center with her alien vibrato and emotional croon. From the opening notes of “Before I Ever Met You,” a throbbing electronic lesson in the lyrical bite of Fiona Apple alongside the trip pop of Portishead, BANKS anchored the transfixed audience. Much like her studio recordings, there was a quiet tension broken only by cheerful spasms from her fans.

Before launching into “Goddess,” BANKS expressed how important the title track of her upcoming album is to her. The women in the audience roared with applause as she stressed how every woman is a goddess and should be treated as such. The song itself begins with claustrophobic synths leading into BANKS bluntly exclaiming “She gave it all, you gave her shit.” Suddenly, in the context of the music BANKS has released thus far, the record title Goddess made perfect sense: her songs aim to rise above mistreatment to an ethereal state of being and understanding.

Given that Goddess isn’t out until September 9th, BANKS had a limited number of songs to fill her hour long set. One slot was taken by a cover of Aaliyah’s bouncy 90s hit “Are You That Somebody.” The Timbaland production was stripped to its bare essentials, allowing BANKS to groove over the sparse beat with a sensual touch. She even fully executed Timbaland’s rap, complete with the lyric change “I’m the girl the big LA.”

With an artist like BANKS, whose voice is central to the music, the venue’s sound engineers should have amplified her vocals. It’s hard to appreciate the nuances in her voice when people scream over the lyrics and the acoustics aren’t perfect. The artist continually motioned for her microphone to be turned up, and even at its highest it could have gone higher. Still, hearing BANKS’ delicate falsetto on the pulsating “Waiting Game” made any straining worth it. For her encore, the singer performed a song she hasn’t released yet that will appear on her album. “Stick” was the night’s most upbeat moment, highlighting BANKS’ R&B-leaning sensibilities. It was an energetic note to complete a show by an artist who will only continue to grow and stretch her muscles. Although next time, it will probably be in a much bigger space.

Setlist
Before I Ever Met You
This Is What It Feels Like
Change
Brain
Goddess
Bedroom Wall
Fall Over
Warm Water
Are You That Somebody (Aaliyah cover)
Drowning
Waiting Game
Stick (Encore)

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