Concert Review: BANKS – III Tour at Heimathafen, Berlin

Banks III

BANKS shows growth with III Tour, her biggest yet
Californian pop star BANKS is currently on her third international club tour after making waves online for the first time in 2013 and releasing her debut album Goddess in 2014. Sophomore record The Altar followed in 2016 and earlier this year she returned with the appropriately titled album III. To promote this record, she recently played in London, Stockholm and Amsterdam and visited Berlin over the weekend for two shows in Heimathafen. She takes the stage with excellent choreography and three albums full of exquisite electronic R&B and gives her biggest show yet.

Accompanied by two female dancers and two band members (who mostly play drums and keys) she takes the stage, singing III album opener ‘Till Now’. Throughout the show it becomes clear exactly how happy she is about this record as she only skips two of the thirteen songs (she only recently added ‘Godless’ to the setlist) on it. It is a tricky decision not every artist dares to make, but for BANKS it works out as III simply does not have any filler material and even for fans who are not as familiar with her most recent work yet, there is enough to enjoy even when you can’t sing along. During the breezy ‘Hawaiian Mazes’ and the seductive drums of ‘Alaska’ for example, she performs eye-catching choreography with the dancers while the use of lights throughout the show is excellent as well, adding to the drama of the tracks as well as the mystery of her persona.

It helps that some of her new work is instantly catchy, like the loud and dramatic ‘The Fall’ and the undeniable bop ‘Propaganda’. III singles ‘Gimme’ and ‘Contaminated’ are among her very best work and sound just as excellent live. For ‘Contaminated’ she performs an emotive modern choreography and belts out how “our love is tainted” in a heartbreaking manner over the outro. From the first two albums, she mostly performs some singles, but also kept The Altar album track ‘Poltergeist’ on the setlist. It is an unexpected highlight of the night. She performs the song in two microphones (one of which creates the ghost like distorted sound) while also serving exorcism like choreography over the instrumental parts.

‘Waiting Game’ remains an absolute highlight in her live shows. Her vocals truly shine on the stripped back parts, while the expressive movements over the instrumental break are absolutely hypnotic to watch. Although most of her work is not exactly upbeat or uplifting, she does manage to get the crowd to dance to the single ‘Underdog’ as well as the hits ‘Gemini Feed’ and ‘Begging For Thread’ which she saved as the encore.

The sound quality in the venue could easily become an issue at a BANKS concert as she often combines emotive and fragile vocals with deep and dark productions. This requires a delicate balance for her voice not to be buried under everything else that is going on. I am happy to report that everyone involved got it exactly right for the show in Berlin. She was vocally crystal clear from start to finish, whether it was a stripped back part of the songs or not. Of course she sometimes uses a backing track as her vocals on the studio versions are extremely layered, but having seen her tour with every album so far, It is clear she has grown a lot, not only in terms of performance and stage presence, but also vocally.

BANKS might never become a pop star for the masses, but she truly made her brand of electronic R&B into an art both in the studio as well as on stage with a visually outstanding show you cannot look away from.

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