The one-man soul band known as Mark Banks is a sheer delight to watch, as he interprets songs creatively and turns each into an inspired performance. It’s only necessary to peel back the layers to find out what makes every show one of a kind.
First, Banks draws influence from gospel, hip-hop, country, rock, classical and jazz. He has mastered the technique of giving covers his own stamp. There are hints of jazz in his vocals (he adds scat-like phrases to Eric Clapton’s “Layla”), and strands of soul in his pop covers. For example: “Personal Jesus” by Depeche Mode becomes a slowed-down, souled-up love song.
In addition, Banks is continuously improving. His experience as a DJ at wedding parties has taught him how to blend songs, as well as develop rhythmically and learn about tempo.
That explains why Banks doesn’t just use a looper; he owns it, playfully adding creative sounds, even beatboxing in the crowd favorite “Save Tonight” by Eagle Eye Cherry and an original, “Shoot Me Down.” Banks hits it out of the park with his interpretation of Camila Cabello’s “Havana.” With beatboxing in the background, he plays the melody lines on guitar then performs his own rap for the second verse and plays the melody again for the last verse. In effect, it’s a remix.
He is equally impressive with his stripped-down, soulful rendition of “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen, a song that showcases his vocal quality beautifully, proving that the looping layers are built upon a solid foundation of talent.
With a repertoire of a few hundred songs (and counting) and a commitment to keeping things fresh, a Mark Banks show is never the same twice.
Mark Banks 6pm Friday, March 13. C Restaurant + Bar, 750 Cannery Row, Monterey. No cover. 375-4800,thecrestaurant-monterey.com