One Tuesday, November 7th, Jess and I embarked on a trip to the Belltown neighborhood of Seattle to catch Australian singer/songwriter Vera Blue and London-native crooner Jacob Banks at The Crocodile. Now, we were just at the famed music venue about a month prior to catch Swedish pop starlet, LÉON. With the show doors opening at 8PM we had a little bit of time standing in line getting to know some of our fellow concertgoers talking about playing ‘Concert BINGO’.
You know what we are talking about. The bouncer with the ponytail. The clueless first-timers trying to sneak to the front of the line. The hopeful people trying to buy tickets to a sold out show. The under-dressed college girls freezing in the 40 degree weather. And the free space! BINGO!
Anyhow, after the doors finally opened about 15 minutes late because of technical difficulties during soundcheck, Jess and I made our way to the front of the stage again trying to warm up a little bit before Vera Blue took the stage. While looking around the venue, the first thing you notice is that all of the walls are painted black with framed photos and promotion posters from past concerts hung unevenly covering most of the wall space. It does provide some context to the quality and number of bands who have played on this exact stage. In a way, it is and has been a launching pad for many artists including Seattle greats like NIRVANA and Alice In Chains and international bands like REM and Beastie Boys.
With all of the nostalgic memorabilia hanging from the walls, we were ready for history to be made by Sydney-based songstress Vera Blue. The first noticeable attribute of the singer is her fiery red hair. She immediately stepped up to the microphone, then her enchanting, ethereal voice took over and nothing else mattered. She opened her set with “First Week” which set the table perfectly. Vera Blue‘s stage presence, while limited because of time constraints, was sweet and seemed to be a bit shy, but once she unleashed her voice, she is full of confidence and fire.
Her ability to control her tone and her higher register is wonderful with shades of a young Mariah Carey reaching the stratospheric notes that so few can control. Vera Blue flawlessly worked through her set of both high energy tracks like “Regular Touch”, “Overachiever” and “Lady Powers” then mixing in a few ballads like “Settle”, “Hold” and “Mended”. It was everything you could have wanted in an opening act. She opened her heart on every song and let the music pour out. It was an inspired show that made us both determined to see her perform again.
For Jess and me, this was the second time we were able to catch Jacob Banks in concert in less than a year. In February, we saw him when he opened for LÉON at Barboza in Seattle. After that first performance, we knew we had to take our opportunity to see the rising star in another intimate venue before his inevitable rise to stardom. His velvety, silky voice is something that the world had no idea it was missing until Jacob Banks burst on the scene. His depressing, soul/R&B songs are unbelievably heartbreaking, like “Grace” and “Unknown”, but his love songs are not just sappy, saccharine songs. They are real. They are developed from imperfect love and “Silver Lining” is the culmination of those unanswered questions when trying to find unconditional love.
Jacob Banks finds a genuine way to take all of his deepest, darkest feelings and translate them into songs that are undeniably real and unimaginably creative. His connection with the audience, which has already developed a loyal cult following, trumped most any other for a venue of this size. And with the crowd participate was unbelievable and in a space where the crowd is around 600 it sounded like 6000. It was loud and enthusiastic. The expected encore was “Chainsmoking”, which is one of those songs that is everything. The stinging guitar riff is catchy and distinct and the chorus was designed brilliantly for optimum crowd participation.
How do you thank artists for baring their soul for our entertainment? Because the amount of pain and suffering Jacob Banks and Vera Blue have endured to produce this type of music must have been excruciating. So thank you for feeling all of those emotions for us and then being brave enough to share them.
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