Review: Banks at The Astor
Banks kicked off the first leg of her Australian tour at Mount Lawley’s Astor Theatre with no shortage of drama and theatrics.
Jillian Banks’ public persona has undergone many subtle changes since her last appearance in Australia with St Jerome’s Laneway Festival in 2015. The release of her sophomore album The Altar and its subsequent widespread acclaim has shepherded in a new era for the dark and mysterious Californian songwriter; while the signature all black and themes of heartbreak and betrayal remain, she now rolls with back up dancers, relies heavily on eccentric choreography in her performances and openly embraces the contradictions that mark her as an incomparable alternative artist.
Not your typical walk down the aisle
Banks kicked off the first leg of her Australian tour at Mount Lawley’s Astor Theatre with no shortage of drama and theatrics. Bathed in red light, the songstress stepped onstage shrouded by a black veil and flanked by two dancers cum dark bridesmaids. Beginning the proceedings with the creepy "Poltergeist" and then the offbeat "Fuck With Myself", it quickly became evident the ways in which Banks has developed her performances since 2015.
Unsettling choreography for unsettling music
The twisted, jarring choreography proved to be as fundamental to her performance as the music, as she writhed and contorted in an explosion of angst. Her sinister dancers were solely present for tracks from The Altar, allowing her to command The Astor stage solo for crowd favourites such as "Brain", "This Is What It Feels Like", and "Drowning".
Meaningful insight into her artistic process
The night peaked with Banks’ performance of "Better", preceded with a rare glimpse into her songwriting process. The notoriously private artist explained that her songs begin with a simple chord progression and melody along with one random syllable, that morphs into one random word, which eventually becomes one random phrase. This segued into "Better", arguably one of her most dramatic and atmospheric creations. Banks traded in the three-minute studio recording for a spectacle that began acoustically and gave way for a crowd sing-along.
Self-conscious yet empowered at the same time, Banks is a fascinating contradiction. Her raspy vocals crack and break with heart-wrenching acoustic ballads such as "Mother Earth", while she gyrates and sensually prowls the stage for disruptive, forceful tracks such as "Trainwreck" and "Judas".
This fine line between fragile and indestructible, vulnerable and empowered, acoustic and heavily produced not only establishes Banks as an intriguing and mesmerising artist, but also marks her Australian tour as one not to be missed.