Published Jun 13, 2019Tank and the Bangas don't just know how to start a party, they also know just how to keep a party going — and going and going.
Known for her magnificent voice, engaging storytelling, and infectious quirkiness, Tarriona "Tank" Ball and her backing band have been on the come up since they won the NPR Tiny Desk Contest in 2017. While the band have toured consistently since, it wasn't until 2019 that the group finally released their first studio album since 2013 — a 17-track theatrical smorgasbord entitled Green Balloon. This Toronto appearance celebrated the launch of their record in style, packing the Mod Club and delivering "banga" after "banga."
The performance started out with Tank's band. This impressive crew of nine musicians — including a pair of keys players (Merell Burkett and Norman Spence) and two performers on brass/woodwinds (Etienne Stouflet and Albert Allenback) — flooded onto the stage for a dramatic instrumental introduction. This theatrical jam built like a prog-rock piece until Tank emerged to thunderous applause — the jingling chords of Green Balloon highlight "Spaceships" kept the cheering going. The dress code for the band this evening was head-to-toe camo, and the group danced like a patterned sea. By the time they erupted into distinctive trap banger "Quick," the band appeared to move as one.
When the Bangas finally paused to catch their breath, Tank invited the audience into her world: the world of the green balloon. The audience followed, enthralled, as the band began the anti-Trump anthem "Big Bad Wolf." This show-stopper showcased the Bangas' ability to build from a whimper to a dramatic, dissonant climax.
With dynamic stage presence, unpredictable dance flourishes, and the most expressive eyes you've ever seen, Tank lived up to her reputation as an irresistible performer throughout the night. She alternated flawlessly between joyful shrieks to soulful crooning, made direct eye contact with every member of the front row, and worked the crowd dozens of times within a single song. Several highlights, including the disco-funk party track "Bradys" and fusion-groover "Ants," were opportunities for Tank to flaunt her presence while the band vamped and green balloons (how could they resist?) were released into the audience. These extensions of the tracks were occasionally unnecessarily long, though, leaving the crowd anxious for more Tank time.
Regardless, the positive energy of a Tank and the Bangas party was palpable all night. After the album single "Nice Things," which featured Etienne Stouflet trading his tenor sax for a triangle, Tank cheekily complimented Stouflet's triangle prowess. "No matter what role you're currently playing in your life," Tank declared, "you'd better play that role to the fullest." The positivity caught on, evidence by the "we love you, Tank!" shouts from the audience after a solid cover of Digable Planets' "Cool Like That."
After a rousing rendition of "Dope Girl Magic," an encore was inevitable. This was an opportunity for Tank to showcase a side of herself she had neglected this evening: her ability to tell a deep, personal story without relying on performative grandiosity. Initially joined only by Danny Abel on guitar and vocalist Kayla Jasmine, Tank showcased her slam poetry skills with the heartfelt "Rollercoasters." Eventually the entire band emerged and, predictably, jammed the song out with great enthusiasm, but for an unnecessarily long time.
These instrumental jams epitomized the only notable flaw in Tank and the Bangas' performance: the party was almost too forceful, too persistent. Tank is a marvellous storyteller and dynamic singer; this performance did not adequately showcase these talents. While Tank and the band are equally capable of delivering heartfelt ballads as well as raucous dance tracks, some may have walked away from this performance thinking of Tank and the Bangas as merely a talented, quirky party band.
Nonetheless, it takes a great deal to put on such a party. The crowd clearly didn't want it to stop, as the dancing continued well after the band stopped playing, with an audience member jumping on stage to twerk as Khia's "My Neck My Back" played through the speakers. The band joined in as they tore down their equipment; a good portion of the audience stuck around to dance and laugh. The crowd was immersed in her green balloon and did not want to leave.