Don’t Tell Me “Real Music” Is Dead When Jacob Banks Is Selling Out Venues Worldwide

 

Words & Photography: Miles Holder

You hear it all the time, “oh real music is dead”, “the industry isn’t what it used to be”. You hear it from those joyfully reminiscing on the heydays of Aretha, Gladys and Muddy Waters, you hear it from those inside and outside of the industry, and of course, you hear it from people who just want to feed into the false economy that vocal talent isn’t worth dust anymore. I say this to anyone we ever interview, I say it to anyone who thinks themselves an authority in the music industry, and I say it to you if you believe that young musicians aren’t slaying it night after night with powerhouse vocal performances – believe me, they are.

You might be asking why this article comes across so hyped up, what life-changing performance did I witness that has led to this passionate “come at me bro” review? Well, I’ll tell you! It was Jacob Banks playing to a soldout crowd at London’s Village Underground.

Opening act Joy Crookes, while small in stature captivated the room with her sultry and hypnotising singing voice. While only 18 years of age, the Elephant & Castle native has the stage presence of an artist far beyond her years. Exclaiming “I do this all for fun” as she played arguably her best-known tracks ‘Sinatra’ and ‘Bad Feeling’. It was her final track, ‘Power’, which truly set the crowd ablaze. In her soft speaking voice Joy began by telling the crowd, “I think that all artists should stand for something”, but ‘Power’ isn’t a whaling battle-cry anthem you might expect from the name, nor did it need to be for the message conveyed. Joy’s vocal control and her delicate grip on the melody had the crowd clinging on to every note she sang. Lyrics ‘You got bitches, you got hoes, We the people, and we know, All we want is to be accepted’, delivered so eloquently arrested every listener in the room and lyrics ‘I sing, you can’t take my power’ left us all shouting a resounding “Amen!”

Then, came the main event, Mr Jacob Banks. Starting his set with ‘Worthy‘ from his 2013 record ‘The Monologue’, (a track I presumed he would end on) it was only the beginning of what would be an epic show. We’ve all come to love Jacob for his soulful voice and blues revival on recorded tracks but live; there’s a whole new layer of grit in his voice that I for one hadn’t heard before. On the small stage, Jacob brought the audience to church, becoming the church chorus, conductor, alto, bass, soprano, pews and all. When ‘Unholy War’ rolled around, hands instinctively shot up and waved as Jacob boomed ‘Wade in the water’. Jacob also played a new and unreleased tracks, a fast-paced jazz infused track leading into an impressive guitar solo by Daniel Byrne. The whole performance was sublime, ‘Rainy Days’ merged into ‘Dear Simone’ so seamlessly and when Jacob returned for his encore, ‘Cahinsmoking’ left us all in awe.

While Jacob’s music transcends any generation divide, I do want to point out from what I could see; the crowd was 80%, young people. Young people who happily parted with their money to listen to Jacob’s and Joy’s FAULTless voices. Two days later and the whole performance still echoes in my mind, and I’m sure the same goes for everyone there – “real” vocalists still exist, and not in the dark corners of dilapidated blues houses! They’re selling out large venues in London to New Orleans and if anyone tells you that “real musicians” don’t exist in modern music, tell them that on the contrary, they’re just not looking in the right places.