I had the pleasure of seeing Jacob Banks perform for the second time this week. On Tuesday night he played a headline show at XOYO in London, a venue which a year ago he sang at as part of an open mic night.
In a year, Banks has come a long way. From signing to a major label (Atlantic Records), appearing on Later…with Jools Holland and teaching himself to play the guitar. His incredibly soulful voice and original songs have attracted admiration and attention from label mates; he features on Wretch 32’s Doing OK Banks, other UK artists; Banks teamed up with Chase and Status on Alive and A list celebs; he toured with Alicia Keys and Samuel L Jackson is another of Banks’ famous fans.
While the crowd waited for Banks to take to the stage they were entertained by his support acts, Dionne Reid and Lizbet Sempa, they both sang in very different styles but showcased amazing vocal talent. Members of the crowd were audibly impressed by the musical quality of the two ladies who opened up for Banks. Understandably the loudest cheers were saved for Banks himself. He opened with Worthy and if you have any doubts about whether or not he is worthy of his current (and no doubt future) success the answer is yes, he is completely worthy.
Unsurprisingly his music attracted a varied crowd – old, young, hipster and dedicated music lovers. Banks’ set reflected his wide appeal, although it doesn’t come across as something he forces, he just makes great music and that’s bound to get him noticed. His incorporation of a section of Luther Vandross’ Never Too Much into his set had the crowd vibing with him. Banks often boasts about his eclectic music taste on Twitter and while you can hear his various influences, he retains an individualism to his sound. His rendition of Whitney Houston’s My Love is Your Love was a really special moment, but equally was his heartfelt Heaven Knows Your Name which he introduced by speaking about the loss of his best friend.
On Rainy Day Banks encouraged audience participation, something which he didn’t have to coax his fans into at all, they sang, swayed and danced along to every song anyway. The honest I was Made for You captivated the crowd and showed Banks at his best. For Doing OK Banks brought Wretch 32 onto the stage, the venue erupted. After their energetic performance of the single, Wretch 32 spoke to the audience about just how great Banks is, as if they needed convincing.
Supported by his talented band known as the Bluku Gang, Banks introduced them one by one to the crowd giving each member the opportunity to have a solo moment. A stylish soul, Banks wore a smart brown blazer with black satin lapels, a black polo neck, black jeans and trainers. His outfit was topped off with his somewhat trademark black fedora hat.
I spotted Reggie Yates in the audience and bumped into Dionne Reid in the loos. Reid told me how she had been on voice rest and signing up until the show because of a sore throat. If that’s how she sings with a sore throat, she has nothing to worry about! Artists are usually their own harshest critics, but no one would have suspected that she hadn’t been on top form.
Building on his success last year, Banks is undoubtedly going to be making his fair share of appearances at festivals throughout the year. And he’s selling out his solo gigs, so you better be quick if you want to see this soulful star live. Here at Birthday we’ll definitely be charting the success of this remarkable UK talent, and keeping an eye out for news of his debut album. We’d encourage you to do the same. Jacob Banks’ EP The Monologue is available to buy now on itunes.