At Venue on Saturday, May 25
Perhaps because it was—as Banks was unashamed to admit—her first time, there was some question as to who enjoyed themselves more. It’s pretty safe to say that no one inside a sweaty and packed Venue went home disappointed; even if the folks who screeched “We love you” throughout the night say that to all the girls, their proclamations certainly sounded sincere.
Not to be outdone, Banks proved to be one of those rare artists more interested in being herself than playing some almighty cool kid. The singer known to her accountant as Jillian Banks was, at various points in the set, refreshingly vulnerable, infectiously energized, endearingly awkward, and mesmerizingly into her art.
Most of all, though, she looked completely thrilled and amazed to be on-stage on the first night of her first-ever headlining tour. For proof of that, all you had to do was watch Banks during the show-opening “Before I Ever Met You”.
Sporting a basic-black ensemble including a waist-length vest and the kind of platform shoes that become difficult to navigate after a few drinks, the singer had a look that was as cool and mysterious as her songs. Contrasting that was her obvious enthusiasm for the job at hand. When Banks spent part of “Before I Ever Met You” slapping hands with those in the front row, it was hard to tell who looked more giddily excited—the fans or the performer onstage.
The Los Angeles native certainly has a presence, pointing at members of the crowd during songs, busting witchy-woman hand gestures that would impress Stevie Nicks, and putting on a dance party the looked part Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and part Lonely Island’s “The Creep”. She’s also got a voice that channels the smokiness of Cat Power one second, the world-music exoticness of Ofra Haza the next, with enough R&B fireworks to secure a spot next to Christina Aguilera on The Voice.
Even though she’s yet to release her first full-length (titled Goddess, it comes out this fall), she already has a devoted following who knows her stuff. The first big cheer of the night came two songs in, when Banks eased into the smoldering trip-hopped comedown “Change”, the response equally enthusiastic later in the set for the sultry “Waiting Game”.
The greatest moment of the night came during the intro during the otherworldly drifting-synths beauty “Goddess”. To the cheers of the decidedly female-heavy audience, Banks announced, “This next song is very special to me because it’s important for every woman to know that she’s a goddess. And for every human to feel as powerful as they possibly can, no matter what weaknesses you have, or think you have.”
The most captivating number was easily “Bedroom Wall”, during which she practically vibrated with tortured emotion.
On the flipside of things, there were also times when Banks made it clear that she’s still learning on the job. Introducing a somewhat-flat Aaliyah cover ("Are You That Somebody?"), she praised the song for making her “juicy and buttery”. Parts of the show relied on so much looping and prerecorded parts you wondered if it was live or Memorex, and her vocal histrionics occasionally made her sound like Flipper begging for more herring.
But let’s give her a break for such small missteps. Overall, Banks gave the crowd a night it will remember, that being doubly impressive when you consider this was her first time.