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Jan312014

Jacob Banks @ XOYO, London (28th January 2014)

On January 28th 2014 Jacob Banks returned to XOYO, London to play his second ever headline gig. The Shoreditch based venue is one Banks has played at once before, as part of an open mic night almost a year ago and his new headline line status reflects just how far the 22 year-old has come in such a short space of time. Support for the headliner came in the form of Dionne Reade and Lizbett Sempa. 

As a capacity crowd slowly filled out the basement main room of a sold-out XOYO there was no mystery regarding who the crowd was here to see perform. The room filled with a mix of excited punters and more well known members of the music industry (Jameela Jamil, Nicola Roberts and Mikill Pane all present to name just a few) it was clear that the music of a man, who has been making waves ever since becoming the first unsigned artist to be asked to perform in the Radio 1 Live Lounge, had made quite the impression on all those present. Before Banks took to the stage, however, support act Dionne Read stepped up and got the crowd going with an infectious mix of reggae influenced soul, the highlight of which was a somewhat bizarre but entertaining refix of the Power Rangers theme song. If Reade succeeded in getting the tempo going, however, the following act, 18 year old singer-songwriter Lizbett Sempa, immediately brought things back down with a series of heart-wrenching piano driven ballads that had the audience transfixed throughout. The two support acts, hugely contrasted in their own individual styles, they in a sense perfectly reflected the intense variety in Banks’ own music and the pair set the stage beautifully for the arrival of the main act.  

The lights set down low, at about 9.35pm a four-man band (occupying the drums, keyboard, guitar and bass) accompanied by two additional backing vocalists finally took to the stage. With Banks still yet to appear the instantly recognisable piano intro of the singer’s biggest hit to date ‘Worthy’ began to fill the room. The anticipation amongst the crowd palpable, when Banks, right on queue, finally appeared, he was instantaneously greeted with a cacophony of applause and cheers that quietened only to allow him to proceed with the opening track. I must be honest, prior to the performance I was unsure of what to expect. Banks’ talent is undeniable, but his recent success has been so quick in its escalation I could not help but speculate as to whether the singer had yet had sufficient time to establish a true musical identity, let alone live act. Within the first few bars of ‘Worthy’, however, my concerns were completely forgotten and I quickly became mesmerised by the irresistibly smooth nature of his baritone vocals.

When the opening track drew to a close Banks finally addressed the audience and his modesty seemed overwhelming as he stated, “My name is Jacob Banks and I sing songs”. From this point onwards the audience were in the palm of his hand and as the performance continued the entire room seemed to become seduced by Banks’ voice as he commanded the stage with an assured confidence rarely found in an artist so early on in their career. Banks’ set list mirrored this confidence and the singer had little qualms about tackling big songs such as  ‘Worthy’, ‘Kids on The Corner’ and ‘Hostage’ early on in the set.  Perhaps, even more tenacious still was Banks’ choice in covers, as just three tracks in the singer took the brave decision to cover Whitney Houston’s ‘My Love Is Your Love’.  Almost inevitably, he did the record more than justice, offering a reggae inspired down tempo version of the track that coupled with his own distinct soulful vocals served as a more than fitting tribute to the original. Just a few tracks later Banks again appeared keen to switch things up, performing a stripped back acoustic cover of his recent collaborative track with Chase & Status ‘Alive’ which was sung over the melody of ‘Thugz Mansion’ by 2-Pac and Nas. The result was a stunning acoustic inspired refix that stood as a testament to the musical talent of a man who it seems hard to believe picked up a guitar and started singing for the first time just two years ago. 

 As the performance continued and Banks became increasingly comfortable on-stage he only improved, artfully switching between the more up-beat tracks from The Monologue EP such as ‘Homecoming’ and ‘Rainy Day’ and the down-tempo emotive piano led ballads such as ‘Something Beautiful’. The audience was even granted a minor glimpse of what Bank has in store for 2014 with a performance of two unreleased tracks in the form of ‘I Was Made For You’ and ‘Move With You’. Indeed, so good was Banks that when he finally left the stage following a beautiful rendition of ‘Something Beautiful’ not one member of the audience seemed fooled and before the band could so much as put down their instruments Banks was back to perform a lively two track encore, that included a special appearance from Wretch 32 for their track ‘Doing Okay’.

As I reflect on the performance now, however, what really sticks with me more than anything else is the unique nature of Banks’ voice. Comparisons with soul legends such as Otis Redding almost too easy to make, his voice seems unique in a modern music industry populated with increasingly pop focused male vocalists. While I must admit I was disappointed not to see Banks lend his own hand to a piano or guitar at any point during the evening his ability as a front man more than made up for this and his interaction with the live band was superb throughout. In short, while Banks’ career may still be very much in its infancy if Wednesday night’s performance assured me of anything it is that we will be hearing a lot more of the name Jacob Banks in the very near future and that can only be good news.

Words by Henry Whittingdale

Photography by Emily Coxhead - see more HERE

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Happy Parents Day status

July 13, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterhappy parents day

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