1st March | SWX

New Orleans collective Tank and the Bangas blend their jazz roots with the innovative hip-hop that has shone through on their recent singles, something that could prove to be difficult to duplicate at a live show. With a trippy science-fiction-movie style theme playing before the entrance of Tank, she emerged in exaggerated fashion, all high drama and sequin coat. She lurched around before throwing it off and launching into a rousing rendition of ‘Quick,’ the song that won them the NPR Tiny Desk Award. It isn’t hard to see why, the energy they generate from such a small stage translates into that of a Glastonbury headliner. It is something that is rare to see from a group just beginning to blow up.

On top of this, Tank could give the likes of Nicki Minaj a run for her money with her rapid flow, whipping out verses on fast-forward during ‘Spaceships’. During the intro, Tank asked the audience to stretch from side-to-side, then get down and wind back up as she led us in action. Actions like this and asking the crowd to exhale collectively later made the concert feel like a Zumba/yoga class.

The best example of the signature soft jazz and rap sides they display fused together on ‘Smoke Netflix Chill’. It can’t be easy to flit between songs that are so different in tone, but they made it look so effortless, even with such a large collection of instruments and people on stage.

What was endearing is how Tank was so brazen in her honesty, demonstrated best on ‘Do Something’ where she said, “My bills are late, my rent won’t wait and I ain’t got no place to go.” Following this, she showed her most personal and powerful moments during her spoken-word love letter to New Orleans, where she declared, “I am a jungle of a woman.” It stood tall as a more tender track that brought a zen-like calm, but kept the crowd lively. It was these kind of frank admissions that made her one of the most down-to-earth stars you could ever watch and dance with.

They dove into darker territory for the sinister, sultry rock of ‘Big Bad Wolf,’ with backing singer Jelly harmonising, “Big Bad Wolf trying to hunt me down.” The theatre that they created on stage when performing was impressive and full of confidence. It was the way the charismatic frontwoman transformed emotional monologues into beautiful music that sounded like poetry. You genuinely couldn’t tell if she was stricken when she paused during her anecdotes, or whether Tank is an incredible actor.

Either way, everyone was on board with the Bangas. The night ended with the most active performance, ‘Bradys,’ which got the whole crowd to swing their arms around. Eventually, everyone was swinging from side-to-side, along with Tank and the whole band on stage. With a violin, trumpet, saxophone, synth, bass and drums, this could all too easily sound bloated in the wrong hands. But in the hands of this enthusiastic group of musicians, you can never have too much of a good thing. And what a bloody good thing Tank and the Bangas are.

See Tank and the Bangas perform ‘Quick’ live here: