This past Thursday, I had the wonderful experience of seeing Swedish singer Léon perform her first show ever in Chicago (which was also sold out), during her first North American tour with special guest Jacob Banks. The 20 city tour stopped at Schuba’s Tavern – a small 165 capacity venue in Lakeview – packing an enthusiastic, diverse crowd ready to hear some songs about heartbreak.
The night began at 9PM on the dot as Jacob Banks appeared through the “exit” door on the side of the stage directly from the tour bus outside on the street. Jacob Banks has had success in The UK: at only age 24, he was the first ever unsigned artist to appear on BBC Radio Live Lounge in 2014 and kickstarted his career supporting Emeli Sande on a 2013 tour. After having some of his songs appear in a handful of American television shows, he signed with Interscope Records in September 2016 and has continued to receive tremendous attention for his phenomenal voice.
Banks began his performance to a smaller crowd that eventually filled to its potential about halfway through his set. Dressed in a modest pair of blue jeans, Reeboks and a beanie, his stage presence and unpredictably powerful voice became the center of attention. Of course, it didn’t hurt that Banks’ was wearing a blue and red Chicago Cub’s jacket: perhaps a gesture to make a few new fans from the audience who were previously unfamiliar with his music.
“I’m here to fuck with you and sing depressing songs,” he said as he introduced a song about “falling in love with an alcoholic,” begging the audience not to ever do it themselves. Some of the highlights of his set was his cover of Corinne Bailey Rae’s “Put Your Records On,” which Banks referred to as one of his all time favorite songs ever, and his newest single, “Unholy War.”
As he slipped offstage and back outside to the tour bus, I continued to ponder where his career would take him in the near future. Perhaps a set at Chicago’s Lollapalooza in August? Only time will tell.
The audience began to become restless waiting for the headliner of the night, Léon, to start her set. If you are unfamiliar with Léon, she is a Swedish singer who has been making music as a solo artist since 2015. With the help of her producing partner, Agrin Rahmani, her song “Tired of Talking” has been streamed on Spotify over 43 million times. Her other songs have also been streamed around 20 million times, adding up to nearly 65 million streams total for her work. It also doesn’t help that she was praised by superstar Katy Perry in 2015.
I have been following Léon for the past year or so (I wrote about her in this post) and was so excited to finally see her first Chicago performance, hopefully the first of many. With only seven of her own songs published in the world at the moment, I was curious to see where her set would take her and if we would hear new music. The set ended up being 11 songs long with two new songs, “Stay” and “For You.”
As she walked onstage to start the performance, it was clear that she was unprepared for the enthusiasm that Chicago music fans always bring to shows. Opening with her recently released “Think About You,” the crowd quickly began to sing along, taking control of where the rest of Léon’s performance would be heading. My personal favorite moments of her set was her performance of her latest single, “Sleep Deprived” and the beautiful cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” in which she performed for Spotify Studios in New York City just a couple months ago.
Although only 24-years-old, Léon’s moments of vulnerability and her down to earth personality (apologizing for spitting on the front row while she sang and constantly apologizing for her hair getting in her mouth), allowed her to showcase her ability to hold a crowd’s attention as if she had been performing for the past 40 years.
Her cover of Arctic Monkeys’ “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High” and a crowd favorite, “Treasure,” continued the momentum that she had built up from the moment she walked onstage: her true stage presence, beautiful voice and ability to get the crowd involved in her set shows that she will only continue to build her already rising career with a solid fanbase.
It was nice to hear how much she loves Chicago and how excited she was to perform for us, and that she would “be back very very soon” (all signs point to Lollapalooza).
Click here to hear her music on Spotify.
Here’s to many concert reviews of 2017,