02 ABC – 9/11
The Californian Banks opened her show at O2 ABC in a haze of breathy, looping vocal samples and fuzzy electronics. Banks is of the Lorde/Grimes/FKA twigs school of dark, weird pop music, and her sound is a kind of apocalyptic r’n’b.
After ethereal opener ‘Alibi’, she begins with a few of the more energetic songs on her decidedly mid-tempo recent album Goddess, and comes out swaggering; strutting back and forth across the stage, hands moving frantically like a rapper spitting verses. Her voice flits between soft, almost whispering, and a rough, emotive yell that often slowly builds throughout a song. ‘Brain’ begins with a sparse synths and her voice gentle, then quickly drops, has her belting out choruses to an audience who are similarly amped.
As the tempo moves to slower, more soul-influenced territory, she becomes stoic and swaying in front of the microphone stand. Mostly still, her performance is all hand gestures, either floaty when calm or frantic when emotional. Through her overall tone is bleak, there are moments of lightness with ‘Warm Water’, though still slow and sparse comes with a, well, warm feeling.
Towards the close of the set, though, is where she really excels; ‘Drowning’ has a bounce to it that marks an increase in tempo, and her backing band of electric guitarist and drummer extend the outro into something booming and anthemic. ‘Waiting Game’, arguably the best track on her album, opens with heavily layered samples of her voice like a sighing gospel chorus, which are cut into by crackling electric guitar and heavy bass. She closes with ‘Beggin for Thread’, the most pure pop song on the record, and everyone cheers her back on for an encore.
Banks has the balance between catchy and glum in the right place that you can both dance your socks off and shake off your demons.
[Clare Patterson – @clurrpatterson]