It starts with no warning. A loud bang on the drum and the crowd jumps and shouts out of surprise. The backing band is in full swing, playing through a number of chords as the crowd waits in anticipation. Some people glance from left to right in attempts to catch a glimpse of the person everyone is waiting for, their hearts racing in time with the persistent drumming. Finally, clad in all white aside from bulky combat boots, he emerges. Banners takes his rightful place on stage, guitar in hand, and with all the pieces of the puzzle finally in place, they leap into the first song, Into The Storm.
The crowd is composed of people from all walks of life. The front row is filled with under-aged girls begging to be noticed, some with clothing that just barely claims to their frames. One or two of these girls go as far as putting their hands in the air numerous times, sorely mistaking a laid-back concert for Coachella. Thankfully, the rest of the crowd is aware of their lax surroundings. 20-somethings clutch their cups of beer and sway along to the songs. We all join in to cheer and clap but for the most part, the intimacy of London Music Hall leaves the crowd in a mutual state of simple admiration for the performance before us.
Banners and his band play with such passion in all their movements that it’s easy to see that they all genuinely enjoy what they do. Banners himself spends a lot of time bouncing on his toes, as if he cannot contain all of the heart inside him begging to escape into the music. The band and him sacrifice their bodies to be tools to the sound, and even drenched in sweat they flash smiles to one another and are sure to joke with the crowd. You even catch the bassist and the drummer sharing mischievous grins a number of times, and can’t help but wonder what is possibly so funny. It only shows how comfortable they are with not only one another, but in front of a room packed with people. At one point, after Banners makes a point to mention his English descent, a rowdy crowd member shouts ‘Go Chelsea!’ to which our front-man makes a quip about security escourting that person out. Realizing this is drawing attention from the man on stage, other members of the crowd start shouting out ‘Manchester!’ and other teams, to which Banners notes that the crowd is now taking to just naming every city in UK.
The venue itself can hardly contain the energy the crowd emits when the set begins to draw to a close. As soon as the first notes of Start a Riot grace the ears of eager listeners, London Music Hall’s cozy room erupts with cheers, which I’m sure even took the bartenders in the back by surprise. Those on stools stood up to sing along and ensure they could see Banners putting his heart and soul into the song. He is sure to thank us, after every single song he makes a point to say into the mic “thanks guys.” I found this rather endearing—so rarely do musicians thank the crowd until the very end of the show—but really, we should be the ones who are thankful and not entitled to these musicians who work so hard to keep us entertained, to make us feel things.
The main thing I took away from Banners’ concert was a message of optimism. With slightly changed arrangements of Half Light, Start a Riot, and Shine a Light, I found the performances to be more passionate and dynamic than what we hear on record. He sings these songs with this fiery spirit, working to hit high notes with such finesse that makes his passion bleed through the performances, making seeing Banners live a much more rewarding experience. And so thank you, Banners, for providing an escape for an hour and shining a light of hope on a crowd that seemed to need it in times like these.