Photos by Christina Nguyen
Like most sold-out shows at 9:30 Club, the crowd was buzzing with energy, anticipating where Banks would stand and strategizing which remaining pockets of open space to claim to get the best view of her.
Having seen Banks at Philadelphia’s Union Transfer in 2014, when she made her debut with the Goddess album, I didn’t feel the urge to push closer this time. I realized quickly what a mistake that was.
As the music started, Banks walked confidently on stage in a black feathery outfit, accompanied by two dancers. Instantly, the crowd released the energy they’d be saving for that moment.
There was minimal stage décor other than a few stage lights, but Banks had every movement strategized to capture the audience’s attention. The dancers stood on either side of Banks, alternating between snake-like and sharp movements. Throughout the set, everyone made use of shear veils, adding a mystique to the dancing, while accenting the emotions felt through Banks’ lyrics which largely depict the highs and lows of relationships, both with others and oneself.
Banks’ debut singles, “Waiting Game” and “This Is What It Feels Like,” were scattered in a set list which focused mainly on her most recent album, The Altar. While I wished she also included “Goddess,” I found myself entranced by the newer sounds and attitude heard in “Fuck With Myself” and “Gemini Feed.”
Most concerts see a dramatic shift in numbers as the audience patiently waits for an encore, but that wasn’t the case with Banks. The overhead lights flickered with the intense clapping and shouting until she walked back onstage.
The main spotlight followed Banks’ every step on stage, and she made great use of the space, ensuring she didn’t limit herself to center stage. This was particularly noticeable during the encore, when she ran from one corner of the stage to another to jump and encourage others to sing along during “This Is Not About Us.”
Since seeing her show three years ago, Banks once again made it very clear how much thought and planning goes into building her onstage personality and audience experience. This time, she seemed more accepting of the artistic power and incredible imagination she has to offer the world. Not only was her voice as stunning as ever, her purposeful demeanor, perfectly-timed choreographies and carefully-chosen outfit all contributed to the experience.