Concert Reviews

The hottest gigs straight from the venue to your couch

Live Review: Banks at the El Rey in L.A. (5/29)

on May 30, 2014, 1:24pm

With Banks, there is the sense that she is happening whether we like it or not. Check out her Wikipedia if you don’t believe. The section marked 2013-present is titled “Breakthrough” and had been for a while. So, though her debut LP, Goddess, isn’t due until September 9th, her breakthrough is all but a done deal. And though this is just one example, the big label fingerprint is so pronounced on the young singer that it would easy to be turned off at the manufactured commodity that Banks is seemingly arriving as.

The problem is Banks is pretty damn good. Her songs are good, her performance is good, and her voice is good. As turned off as the situation surrounding her music may leave us, there is no denying that the music lives up to the hype. The music industry is set up so if you are good enough, you can do most anything you want, i.e Chris Brown, Michael Jackson, Kanye West, and so many more.

And though it’s easy to knock how force her ascent seems, the thing about Banks’ team is it is working. Without a full-length or even a hit single, Banks sold out the El Rey Theatre, with an audience of industry types peppered amongst the teen enthusiasts. Much like Sky Ferreira when she played the same venue last year, Banks draws people that dress like her, with the difference being that Sky couldn’t sell the place out.


Banks with very little in the way of material managed to fill her hour set time and not deliver a night of unfamiliar music from her months-away album. She emptied the cupboards on what has been released, including all of the London EP, and her very strong most recent singles, “Brain” and “Goddess”. The former is the best song she has displayed yet, while the latter saw the woman seemingly more comfortable in the shadows, actually seizing her spotlight and attempting to connect to the crowd.

“This song is very special to me,” she introduced ahead of her upcoming LP’s title track, “I believe that every human should be their most powerful selves,” and it all got the teenagers pumped regardless of whether it was or wasn’t all that deep. Similarly, he acknowledgment that this was her “hometown” made the crowd pleased, though it is kind of weird to hear anyone referring to L.A. as a hometown.

Banks offered half-a-dozen cuts from the upcoming “breakthrough” album, but perhaps the most well-received was her cover of Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody”. It doesn’t get more iconic than that track and Banks makes it seem tasteful and necessary, not just a ploy for attention and good graces. And her originals fit nicely next to it. Banks’ music is shaping up to be far more interesting than anything else surrounding her, and that’s not a bad thing. Still, it would be nice to know a little more about her at this point and feel like what we do know is carefully disseminated content. But, if it ain’t broke?