How was a lineup consisting of a synth-pop group (SHAED), a soul band (Jacob Banks), and the guys who brought us the sobering indie anthem, “Renegades” (X Ambassadors) going to mesh—or was it pointedly not supposed to? The answer: pretty damn perfectly.
While oftentimes show rosters can seem like a mishmash of disparate sounds meant for audiences with entirely different sensibilities (or the openers seem to be there, essentially to make the headliners sound better), SHAED, Jacob Banks and X Ambassadors collectively and singularly demonstrated the beauty that ensues when genre diaspora, killer ensembles, and powerhouse lead singers come together. The acts graced the Depot on May 4, 2018, as part of their JOYFUL tour.
Chelsea Lee has pipes, and they were on full display during SHAED’s brief set. Only a live performance could fully do justice to her full-bodied voice. She alongside Max and Spencer Ernst jived off one another playfully and familiarly, as high school buds would be wont to do.
They performed songs from their Just Wanna See EP to a crowd that was still slowly filtering in. Unfortunately, in the middle of “Thunder,” a computer glitch knocked out the backing instruments and Lee’s mic. The rest of the set was rocky as the technical difficulties recurred; however, Lee and the brothers handled it in stride and even got everyone singing along to their closing song.
You’ve probably heard of Jacob Banks from his tortured masterpiece, “Chainsmoking.” The song is ten times better live—and it’s fair to say that sentiment applies to all acts of the night. No flashy stage or outfits needed: Banks was dressed plainly in a T-shirt and his signature beanie, letting his delivery speak for itself. The past year has been huge for the Birmingham-based soul singer-songwriter, and his full-length debut has yet to even drop. No surprise, considering his penchant for honest lyrics and ability to blend old-school blues song structures with an undercurrent of contemporary rock.
Banks’ set seemed even more austere when X Ambassadors showed up, backup singers, full band, and frontman Sam Harris dressed to the nines. Some of the slower songs; namely, an acoustic Harris had apparently penned for his now-fiancé years back, to win her over from her then-partner dulled an otherwise electric appearance.
As it turned out, these lower-key numbers, and the hit that put them on the Top 40 map, “Renegades,” were the exceptions to an otherwise thumping, almost spiritual set. Think the passion and vocals of Neon Trees, with a dash of gospel. Their debut of “Happy Home” is definitely something to look out for on the airwaves.
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