Just a few short years ago, Toronto-native The Weeknd rode a critical wave of success with his moody, futuristic sci-fi R&B. In the few short years since, what may have been revolutionary has become a common place in the current musical soundscape. Enter Banks riding the sub-genre’s crest with a series of tantalizing EPs, her recently released debut LP Goddess, and subsequent arrival of her Goddess tour in Toronto Friday night.
Sydney’s Movement opened the night to a backdrop reading the name of the aforementioned Banks. The trio’s spacious R&B-electronic music was pleasant but easily forgettable, channeling a healthy dose of soul with predictable grooves that were all but dismissed by the chatty audience.
The exceptionally styled crowd finally turned their attention to the stage upon the thunderous entrance of the L.A. singer herself. Banks highly stylized aesthetics were the main event as she strut with a long stride from the microphone stand to her band mate on synth/guitarist. An impressively strong vocalist with an uncommon range, Banks did herself no favors Friday night with a set focused more on polish than substance.
All but inaudible throughout most of the evening with the exception of a few unscripted purrs and muffled banter, Banks fought for attention over her backing band’s instrumentation and pre-recorded vocals. The latter being more of a distraction that filled in for the numerous holes in Banks’ vocal performance. Title track “Goddess” offered a rare moment of clarity, with Banks delivering a commanding vocal performance, while being all but washed out through much of her meandering set.
Banks, from her sleek ensemble to ample mood lighting to slick pre-recorded grooves, had the audience eating out of her palm hand. Singing along to numerous tracks, there was little interest in the quality of what Banks offered, just the outward appearance of a commanding performer than the voice and compelling music to accompany it.
Banks is vocally more intriguing than her contemporaries but she buried herself, preoccupied with the aesthetics and not her sound or performance.