Text by Andrea Smitko
As the lights dim the crowd begins to shriek, and out of the smoke-filled haze we hear the crystal-clear voice of alternative pop songstress, Banks. The singer, whose angelically sharp vocals cut perfectly through the aggressive basslines that populate her music, was at Rebel Nightclub in Toronto last week touring with her third album III, released in July. An ethereal presence draped in black and flanked by two back-up dancers, she kicked off her set with the new tension-building track “Till Now”, setting the tone for the rest of the evening. With electrifying energy that intensified as the night went on, Banks commanded the stage as she seduced the crowd with her 17-song set.
A mash-up of old and new, she performed upbeat, more danceable songs from her latest album, like “Underdog,” “Stroke,” “Alaska,” and “Propaganda,” and several tunes from her sophomore record, like “Poltergeist,” “Gemini Feed,” and “Fuck with Myself.” I was particularly excited when she played “Drowning” and the hypnotizing “Waiting Game,” the only tracks from her first album, Goddess. With III, Banks preserves her uniquely sensual sound while kicking up the tempo, practically summoning you to the dancefloor. The twenty-something crowd ate it up, with crop top-wearing women and skinny-jeaned men gyrating from all angles.
What was even more impressive about this concert was the sheer production value of it all. I didn’t know what to expect, and I know she’s gotten bigger over the years, but I was not expecting the full visual spectacle that came with the set! Rhythmically fluid and carnal choreography was featured throughout, with Banks and her two dancers punctuating every beat with intricate and stylized movement. High praise should be given to the show’s lighting designer, whose bursting use of colors and laser effects set my optic nerves on fire! The sound was also on point, with perfectly balanced levels that adjusted to the ambient tone of each song, never drowning out the petite yet powerful vocalist.
Once the set came to an end, Banks left the stage and did not grace the audience with an encore. Maybe we’re all a little too conditioned to expect one as a typical part of the concert-going experience and to be denied that feels like a bit of a ripoff. After screaming for several minutes for her to come back, the high I was soaring on quickly sank when the house lights came on and a random audio track started to play.
Aside from the anticlimactic ending, it was an exhilarating night of live music! As Banks’ notoriety climbs and her star shines brighter, this concert is a testament to the incredible musician that she is, and is an indicator of the bold, versatile and dynamic artist she’s shaping herself to be.