June 10, 2017
The stage is dressed in heavy haze and is a little more dimly lit than usual. The typical lighting setup just wouldn’t do for Banks, whose style requires a certain level of darkness. Through the muddle you can see two shadowy forms begin to move together, their silhouettes cutting through the smoke leaving trails of black lacy fabric. In the center, a third form takes shape and sings in a breathy tone, “open up your eyes” as if to say the crowd won’t want to miss any of what is about to happen. The distinct hollow, drippy beat of “Gemini Feed” pulses in and Banks falls in step with the rigid but sultry movement of the two dancers. She has all the attention in the room.
Banks, who wrapped up a European tour earlier this year, is just beginning her U.S. tour in support of her latest album, The Altar, that dropped in September 2016. The sophomore album, much like her first, Goddess, is a collection of earnest confessionals expressed in thoughtful oscillation between cutting, fierce lyricism and sweetly revealed woes. It is a bit more dynamic than Goddess, implementing more upbeat tracks to offset some of the depressing content.
The self-love-because-I’m-a-badass track “Fuck With Myself,” is emblematic of Banks’ messaging on the album. Songs like “Trainwreck,” “Poltergeist,” and “Haunt” depict a soft-spoken, synth-driven fierceness set to crispy beats. More subdued “Mother Earth,” though it offers some reprieve from the angst, holds important messaging. So important that she asks specifically for the audience to put their phones down and listen while it is performed. With sound and style that has been compared to Lykke Li and FKA Twigs, her music is powerful, with lean-into-your-emotions vulnerability.
As the night goes on, the intention doesn’t falter. The two dancers who slink in and out of the performance are completely dressed in black, lacy veils that cover their face. Banks continues to glide in and out of view, light reflecting off her silver, glittery choker. One moment she is mid-step in a glitchy, seductive dance on the side of the stage and the next she has moved through the shadows and is right in front of you. It is an effect consistent throughout her horror-inspired music videos and an impressive achievement during a live show.
She is very clear about herself, the music she makes, and how she wants it consumed. Although she has toured alongside the Weeknd and collaborated with several other notable artists, The Altar includes no features- a rarity in today’s music.
Notoriously private, Banks, limits professional photography at the show. A presumable statement that the experience should be intimate and personal between herself and the audience. The performance definitely feels personal, as if not just listening to the music but living it in a sort of hypnotic, half-conscious state. It is evocative and enveloping.
The last song concludes and the crowd screams for more, as if just being woken up from a deep sleep, disoriented, and wishing to fall back into dreamland. The two shadow dancers and Banks, in her black trench coat, bralette, and top knot, reappear for an encore performance of “This Is Not About Us.” Then she slips away again.
Check out the rest of the remaining 2017 Banks tour dates.