Jacob Banks Kicks Off US Tour With Stunning Show at the Roxy in Los Angeles
On Thursday, British-Nigerian soul singer Jacob Banks kicked off the first leg of a lengthy U.S. tour that sees the singer stopping in over 20 cities before the end of December.
Banks’ thundering vocals have accrued him a dedicated following dating back to the release of his first project, The Monologue, in 2013. And those very same fans turned out to the Roxy in numbers, packing out the house’s main floor and VIP section. The singer, dressed in a bright orange shirt, tailored pants and his signature black beanie, took the stage a few minutes after 9:30. “Good evening my Gs,” he greeted before launching straight into a booming rendition of “Worthy,” which appeared on his breakout EP.
As the last chords faded, Banks launched straight into “Sink or Swim,” a standout single from his 2015 EP The Paradox. Next up was “Monster,” the Avelino-featured fire and brimstone-themed sleeper hit that also appeared on The Paradox. Gliding along on the guitar riff of his bandmate, Banks started to make himself truly comfortable. “They made a demon out of me/ They put a cross through my flesh/ They put a search out for me/ ’Cause I got blood on my hands,” Banks belted, flowing across the small stage with the same sure-footedness he uses to vocally manifest the range of emotion present in his music.
When Banks is in performance mode, his gregarious personality seeps from the stage, blanketing the audience with a comforting sense of familiarity; one almost gets the sense that they’re at a friends- and family-only show. Later in the evening the singer even told a joke about Batman and church. “If any of you lot already know the answer don’t say it, it ruins the joke for everyone,” he cautioned before asking, “What do you call Batman when he skips out on church?” Spoiler alert: the answer is “Christian Bale.” Yet in spite of these small moments of camaraderie, Banks managed to keep audience interaction secondary to his impassioned singing, and for good reason.
Banks’ vocal ability is nothing short of stunning. He’s a powerhouse soloist whose agile pen only adds an intuitive layer of emotiveness to everything he touches. Between songs, he tends to say little. He may take a swig of water, tell a joke or two, or in the case of “Be Good to Me,” casually announce that he’s sharing something for the first time. “I’m going to play a new song,” he declared, taking a brief breather to pick up his guitar. “This song is about good pussy,” he finished amidst cheers and whoops from the audience. Yet even with that slightly ribald introduction, “Be Good to Me” proved to be a yearning confessional about an irreparably broken relationship that somehow still provided comfort, even in its unhealthiness.
Much of his music visits that place between love and uncertainty, belonging and alienation -- it’s within that space of variability his audience finds comfort and common ground. By the time the last riffs of “Photograph” had faded up into the ether, several couples had moved closer together, clinging to one another as if subconsciously afraid the fate of their relationship somehow hung in the balance. Others clapped voraciously throughout the song, especially during the particularly poignant bridge, where Banks ruminates on how a relationship can turn from intimate and loving to two people feeling like strangers.
As the night wound down, Banks treated the audience to yet another new song titled “Love Ain’t Enough.” Like many of his crowd favorites, the single was a meditation on troubled relationships and the possibility of fixing damaged trust. His choice to play “Homecoming” next was a smart one, as the transition between the two was nothing short of fluid, as was his surprise rendition of Childish Gambino’s “Redbone,” which prompted the audience to join him in a sing-along. Banks ended the night on a high note, running through “Unholy War,” with a fervor that belied the fact he’d been singing at the top of his lungs literally all night. And when the audience demanded one more song he obliged, choosing “Chain Smoking” as his final encore.
"Sink or Swim"
"Part Time Love"
"Be Good to Me"
"Mercy / Grace"
"Love Ain't Enough"
"Homecoming / Redbone"