For Melbourne music fans, Splendour sideshow week is like Christmas, the abundance of exciting international artists hitting the city is like no other, Banks at The Forum being a particular standout on the schedule.
Opening the evening was Zimbabwe-born, NZ-raised rapper TAPZ who revelled in the eager early-comers converged on the floor. Recent single “Run Don’t Run” was certainly the set’s high point, with the production and energy of the track a class above the rest of the set. Bringing on a live guest vocalist, rather than purely running everything through the backing track might have added some necessary variety to the show, nonetheless, TAPZ ended on an energetic high and undoubtedly new fans.
Now, let me preface this by saying I am one who doesn’t mind getting to bed early after a gig (especially on a Tuesday), and seeing a headliner planning to hit the stage by 9PM makes my eyes light up, so when Banks ran 20 minutes late I was a little disappointed. It took about three seconds of “Poltergeist” to completely change my mindset.
Five spotlights lined the back of the stage facing the crowd, and in otherwise darkness the sold out room caught glimpses of Banks’ veiled silhouette as she strode on the stage with two dancers in her shadow. Reaching the microphone in the centre of the stage, Banks cut an impressive figure, and the symmetrical choreography flanking her throughout did well to set the scene for the coming hour.
Moving through the set- comprised fairly evenly of tracks from both albums- it was apparent that Banks has taken all the elements of a big stadium pop show and put a dark, unusual twist on it to create what was one of the most visually impressive shows to be witnessed. It was the embodiment of her “Fuck With Myself” video clip. No single element was overused (something that could have been easily done), resulting in a truly balanced spectacle.
Between the more choreographed tracks, Banks moved across the stage regularly reaching out to members of the crowd and dancing freely, making interesting shapes with her various veils and coats. More impressive than all of this, however, was Banks’ voice and control while physically going all-out. While her speaking voice was soft and vulnerable, her singing was powerful and almost pitch-perfect. Put simply, it was astounding.
Unsurprisingly “Gemini Feed”, “Brain” and “Beggin’ For Thread” proved crowd favourites, but”Drowning” and “Haunt” were obvious theatrical standouts. On record ‘Mother Earth’ was far and beyond my least favourite track- it lacked continuity with other tracks- but in the context of the live show it suddenly made so much sense. It was clear, too, how important a song this was to the artist herself.
Rounding out the main set with “Haunt”, Banks left the stage to a truly raucous crowd which failed to die down in the time the empty stage remained dark. The single song encore was appropriate, with a powerful rendition of “27 Hours”.
The set was one of the more complete performances you’ll see and one can only hope it’s not such a long wait for Banks’ return to Australia this time around.
Photo by Stephen Booth, captured at Splendour in the Grass.