Emily Theytaz ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Writer
Living in Switzerland makes for a number of positives and negatives, but the Montreux Jazz Festival every July is perhaps one of the biggest perks. And while it is the second largest jazz festival in the world, don’t be fooled by its name; every year it hosts a number of world famous musicians with genres ranging from soul to jazz, rock to rap, and even some pop. I was able to attend two days of the festival to watch BANKS and Ed Sheeran perform.
It is rare that I go to a concert more for the opening act than for the main performer, but this was the case for BANKS. Born Jillian Banks, the musician is a young Californian who opened for Massive Attack at the famous Auditorium Stravinski in Montreux, Switzerland. Like many artists these days, BANKS made her start on Soundcloud and has slowly risen to fame with her EP London, which was even ranked on BBC’s Sound Of 2014 list.
BANKS, clad in black, took the stage along with a guitarist who also worked the synthesizer and a drummer. The beginning of her set was accompanied by a blinding and sporadic strobe light show that resulted in a distracted crowd with squinted eyes. Once the light show subsided though, the audience gradually warmed up to her so that when she performed her most popular songs “Waiting Game” and “This Is What It Feels Like,” the audience was applauding immensely and dancing along. Overall her electro pop sounds coupled with her stage presence, which included strutting around the stage lifting her legs high in the air, looked a little strange but made for an interesting show that was quite enjoyable. However, it wasn’t clear if everyone else in the audience had appreciated her charm.
Ten days later I found myself standing in line at the smaller venue of the Montreux Jazz Lab for Ed Sheeran. The crowd was unsurprisingly made up of a mix of tweens, teens and a handful of unashamed adults all in line to watch a master at work. Ed Sheeran has risen to fame since 2011 when his first album + was released to critical acclaim. A few weeks ago he released his second album X (pronounced multiply), which has quickly become number 1 in over 12 countries, making it the fastest selling album of 2014 in the UK.
When Ed Sheeran took the stage everyone was overly excited, but the musician didn’t just rely on that hype; Sheeran himself was electric and engaged the crowd in a superb manner. He came onstage with just a microphone and a guitar, but made it seem like it was a full orchestra. While at other concerts fans are screeching the lyrics to the extent that you’re incapable of hearing the artist, Sheeran’s show was different. He hushed the crowd and sung without a microphone, creating an environment that was beautiful to be in. It felt more intimate and personal.
Sheeran engaged in witty banter with the crowd between songs and his loop machine was proof of just how extraordinary technology can be. It’s always incredible these days when an artist performs his songs so that they so perfectly mirror the way they sound on the album. The audience went crazy when Sheeran performed crowd favorites like The A Team and Give Me Love, among others. In the end he performed for close to two hours, all of which were filled with pure enjoyment that left the crowd happy and elated.
It’s always a sad moment to see the Montreux Jazz Festival come to an end and this year was no exception, as it is a huge summer event in Switzerland that is looked forward to every summer. I do, however leave with a happy heart filled with music and excitement for the announcement of next year’s program.
Merci, Montreux Jazz.