Concert Review: Tank and the Bangas @ Arthur Zankel Music Center, 11/10/2023
Skidmore College is making an effort to showcase more creative music and diversity in the arts, and I spent my Friday night enjoying the combination of soulful R&B sounds with passionate and affirming spoken words from Tank and the Bangas in the Arthur Zankel Music Center at Skidmore College.
The band—Tarriona “Tank” Ball, Anjelika “Jelly” Joseph, Joshua Johnson, Albert Allenback and Norman Spence—met at a series of open mic nights in 2011 at the BlackStar Books & Caffe in New Orleans. They became Tank and the Bangas soon after.
Before the group joined each other on stage, the audience loudly welcomed D. Colin, a Troy-based artist, to the stage. Colin shared poems, songs and stories from Haiti and her cultural experiences as a black woman.
Colin started by saying, “Be inspired, then inspire,” then held a collective breathe with the audience. She was in control. When she began her poetry, you felt every word. It wasn’t just reading off a sheet of paper; there was meaning behind the words and meaning behind the songs she sang and the Haitian and Creole language she spoke. There was almost a fire coming from her mouth, as you can physically feel the pain she or her family has felt as she brings the audience along with her very personal pieces.
Her words and movements electrified her set, and the audience took it all in occasionally releasing short shouts in response, and when they did you felt it in your soul. When she finished, the auditorium erupted in praise and a standing ovation.
After a quick intermission, the band came on the stage and started playing, minutes before “Tank” came out.
Perhaps the audience did not know what to expect, or some of them were simply there for the opener, because many left early. But that didn’t stop Tank and Bangas from putting their all into their performance.
On stage, they looked perfectly at home. The audience got stellar saxophone solos, roof-raising harmonies and an energy that flowed through the band and into a rapt audience. “No ID” had everyone up on their feet while the soulful “Communion in My Cup” nearly brought both band and fans to tears—a religious experience indeed. For TikTok lovers, Tank performed “DM Pretty” which went viral on the app, singing the lyrics, “This boy be in my dms saying I’m pretty// This boy be in my dms saying I’m pretty,” and thanking her younger fans for making that happen.
Mixes of poetry, song and dance made the performances real and relatable.
Many of the band’s original songs comment on societal problems, self-love and self-growth. Their newest album, “Red Balloon,” comments on the difficulties they encountered during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as loneliness, social media desensitization, and endless scrolling through Twitter.
“‘Red Balloon’ was pretty unintentionally intentional,” Spence said. “We started making that during COVID, and there was a lot happening politically and socially. So it was an opportunity to address some of that.”
It was evident throughout the concert that the songs reflected their feelings and loneliness during the pandemic. “Why Try” for me was a reflection of how hard it was being in a long-distance relationship during the pandemic. While the lyrics have depth behind them, the beat Tank and the Bangas add makes it a song to just dance to, regardless of whether you relate or not.
Having Tank and the Bangas perform was a good way for Skidmore College to expand its diversity in arts effort. The band’s use of spoken word, R&B sounds, sometimes rap, opens new listeners to a new experience and it opened a lot of eyes to a new type and genre of music on Friday night.