Banks at Pabst: A Review

As it goes with a lot of artists, I distinctly remember first hearing about Banks. It was 2014, and I was in my dreaded magazine writing class, a few months from graduating journalism school in Arizona. Word to the wise, not from the wise–wait, what’s that saying? Never. Take. Magazine. Writing.

Do listen to Banks. My friend Patrick who’s now an entertainment reporter for USA Today (no surprise here) told me about Banks. I’m pretty sure he had a crush on her and showed me one of her interviews where she was looking characteristically beautiful, but he did mention her music was pretty great, too. This was post-bad breakup time for me, and Banks was the sad-girl-yet-empowering singer I needed. Three years and two records later, the value is still there.

Banks played at Pabst on Wednesday, Aug. 2 and proceeded Milwaukee’s own Klassik. Even though I hadn’t listened to “The Altar” (2016) as much as “Goddess” (2014), I was eager to see her perform, since she’s widely known for putting on a great show. From vocals to dance moves and attire, Banks did not disappoint. It’s no secret that she’s gotten a little freakier since her easily digestible, smooth and downright sexy “This is What it Feels Like” (still a favorite) days, but something about her allusions to abusive relationships and mental health along with seriously creepy-cool music videos and dance moves reflect artistic progression–and perhaps simply growing up–so well.

Banks sang a variety from both records along with, much to my happiness, “This is What it Feels Like” and “Waiting Game,” two of my favorites. I would’ve liked to hear “Crowded Places,” but I can’t complain. Banks truly delivered, and even included a poem that she reads during every live show that deals with her subconscious sending her messages while in dreamlike states. If it sounds pretentious, it wasn’t, which is in summation what I love about Banks. Her quirks and musical evolution never feels contrived; she’s accessible while still being interesting.

Hats off to Banks, and my brokenhearted 22-year-old self thanks you too.

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