×

Concert Review: Banks Brings Her Hellishly Divine Act to Los Angeles’ Ace Hotel

If Banks is indeed a goddess — as her debut album’s title posits — she is certainly a pagan deity of death, or, perhaps, the overlord of a type of toxic love most of us hope never to face. The songstress proved as much at her show at the Theatre at Ace Hotel Friday night (Sept. 29), delivering a performance soaked in venom and vulnerability.

After two underwhelming openers — the first channeled Logic and Rae Sremmurd under the moniker A. Chal, then DJ Dahi treated the audience to a set more suited for a club than a concert hall — Jillian Banks took the stage accompanied by two identical twin dancers, her body draped in a black Victorian mourning veil that elicited shrieks of “Queen!” from her audience. Clad in thigh-high boots and a black skirted garment slit up each side to her hips, Banks exuded a dominatrix vibe as she sang into a vocoder, creating an auto-tune-like echo behind her vocals before launching into “Poltergeist” off her 2016 album “The Altar.” The effect offered a fitting warm-up to the headlining set.

Throughout Banks’ performance, the singer’s vocals were significantly more difficult to understand than on her recorded music, although whether this was due to mumbling enunciation or imbalanced levels is difficult to say. Even if you couldn’t understand the words, however, the lyrics had a sharpness to them, each syllable and beat as taut as a drum.

After the rap-like verses of “Trainwreck,” Banks blew the audience away with her first major hit, “Waiting Game,” which gained her notoriety after it was used in a Victoria’s Secret commercial and the soundtrack to the film “Divergent.” To accent the track’s main backbeat, which consists of Banks humming a rhythm on a loop, she and the dancers mimed being stabbed, or perhaps having their hearts ripped out, before jerkily swinging their arms like pendulums. As “Waiting Game” faded out, Banks transitioned into “This Is What It Feels Like,” tracing her hands up and down through the air as she implored all in attendance to, “Bring it down / Bring it up.”

Banks’s command of her audience was undeniable: the entire orchestra seat section was on its feet, with fans screaming lyrics and obediently chanting choruses as she held the mic out to them on songs like “Drowning” and “Crowded Places.” Drenched in red light that colored her pale skin until she looked like a literal demon, Banks matched the precise, marionette-like dance movements of her twin dancers, who wore gauzy yet burqa-like outfits and sported long, blonde ponytails in stark opposition to Banks’ own dark locks.

Without her backup dancers, however, who absented the stage for songs like “Crowded Places,” which showed Banks’ softer side, and “Gemini Feed,” which saw her almost spitting the lyrics, the show lost a bit of its steam. One wonders whether leaving them off stage for “Beggin’ For Thread,” one of Banks’ biggest hits, may have contributed to its falling a bit flat compared to some of the other deeper cuts.

About halfway through the show, with “Better,” Banks’ voice began to sound a little tired, coming across huskier than it did early on in the set. In fairness, the singer has been playing shows in support of “The Altar” since February, and she still has two months in Europe left before the tour concludes. Although she seemed to rally for the next three songs, by the time she reached the penultimate song, the huskiness had returned.

Her fans didn’t seem to notice, however, as they whipped their arms back and forth, with more than a few couples exhibiting uninhibited PDA. Between “Drowning” and “Judas,” her “ghosts” took to the stage for a dance interlude, their interlocking movements and a strobe light creating a hallucinatory effect before Banks returned to the stage, with smoke-tinged red lights emulating the fires of hell.

“Haunt” closed out the set, ending with a gnarly and whammy bar-heavy guitar chord, but Banks returned to the stage for an encore amid deafening chants from the audience. Silhouetted by two retina-burning blue lights, which pulsed with the beat, Banks writhed to the opening strains of “27 Hours,” and treated the audience to her newest song “Underdog,” which was released Thursday. The new track brought some “Crazy In Love”-style bravado to Banks’ ordinarily dark tones along with some literal snarls.

As Banks built to the finish, you half-expected a human sacrifice to take place, with Banks and her dancers serving as priestesses to some horrifying deity. But the three women simply struck a pose, let the lights drop — casting them in darkness — and left, consigning their worshippers to a return to reality.

Popular on Variety

More Music

  • Spotify logo is presented on a

    Spotify Triples Free-Trial Period on Premium Service

    Spotify today extended the free-trial period for its Premium service from one month to three, tripling the amount of time listeners can take full advantage of the streaming giant’s offerings without paying for them. According to the announcement, the offer is “always-on/not limited time,” and will roll out across Spotify Premium plans globally: Individual and [...]

  • Celso Pina Dead

    Celso Piña, Known as 'Rebel of the Accordion,' Dies at 66

    Celso Piña, the cumbia music legend known as “the rebel of the accordion,” died of a heart attack on Wednesday in his hometown of Monterrey, Mexico. He was 66 years old. “Today is a sad day for La Tuna Group, with deep pain we communicate the unexpected departure of a family member, our friend, and [...]

  • Shawn Mendes, Camila CabelloShawn Mendes and

    Camila Cabello, Shawn Mendes to Perform 'Señorita' for First Time at VMAs

    Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes are performing their hit single “Señorita” live together for the first time at the 2019 Video Music Awards. Cabello received five VMA nominations this year, including Best Collaboration, Best Art Direction, Best Choreography, Best Cinematography and Song of Summer. Mendes received six: Artist of the Year, Best Collaboration, Best Art [...]

  • Taylor SwiftTaylor Swift in concert at

    When Could Taylor Swift Re-Record Her Big Machine Songs? It's Complicated

    Her few words echoed around the world within minutes: Asked in a preview of her forthcoming “CBS This Morning” interview whether she might re-record her master recordings from her Big Machine, which are now owned and controlled by her nemesis, Justin Bieber manager Scooter Braun, Taylor Swift said, “Oh yeah.” Asked whether she plans to: [...]

  • James Corden Paul McCartney Carpool Karaoke

    James Corden Got a Little Help From Paul McCartney on His Drive to the Emmys

    Saying “Baby, I could drive your car” has proven to be a very good strategy for James Corden — never more so than when he put Paul McCartney into the highly sought passenger seat. The primetime special “Carpool Karaoke: When Corden Met McCartney, Live From Liverpool” is a contender in five Emmy categories this year, [...]

  • Big Mouth Netflix

    TV News Roundup: Netflix Announces 'Big Mouth' Season 3 Premiere Date

    In today’s roundup, “Big Mouth” Season 3 sets an October 4 premiere date and Univison releases a sneak peek of its new music competition show “Reina de la Canción.” DATES “Big Mouth” will return to Netflix with its third season on Oct. 4. The adult animated comedy, created by childhood friends Andrew Goldberg and Nick [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content