Review: Torres At Boot and Saddle
Singer-songwriter Mackenzie Scott made her way down to South Philly on Saturday night, accompanied by three other bandmates who played backup on keys, electric guitar, bass and drums. Together, the four musicians completed the full Torres ensemble.
Audience members eagerly jammed themselves into the intimate Boot and Saddle venue while a repetitive drumming sequence played through the speakers for ten minutes before Torres took the stage. The percussion soundtrack seemed to simulate an army following their drummer boy into battle. Just as our hearts started to palpitate from the growing intensity, a white-haired Scott with a half topknot do jumped on stage to give her audience a moment of relief.
Without saying a word, she whipped out a roll of sage from her back pocket, then lit and waved it over the crowd as though officiating a séance. Yet, no ghosts were summoned to this show (or at least I really hope not). The lingering aroma of burning incense combined with blue stage lighting set the mood for what turned out to be a dark and heavy night.
For the next hour, Torres took her audience on an emotional roller coaster, playing singles like the mournful “New Skin” and the more oppressive “Son, You are No Island. ” Each sonic beat is featured in her latest record, Sprinter. The music was hard to dance to, but aggressive nodding and violent stomping came naturally.
Each song filled the space with fuming energy that reflected painful details of Scott’s own experiences. Scott used her distinct voice, which ranged from loud and husky to quivering and soft, to manipulate the crowd’s emotion. She would occasionally paused in between sets to snag a sip of water, which she then chased with brown liquor.
During the first half, her banter was limited. Scott talked only to thank us once in a while. Then she introduced “Strange Hellos” by posing the question, “Have you ever been assfucked in the heart?” It was my first Torres concert and she’d barley spoken anything all night, so needless to say this question through me for a loop…which I believe was the intent. After she expressed discontent in the speaker’s limited ability to handle her desired decibel, I knew we were about to witness something extraordinary. “Strange Hellos” opened with a rock star scream that reverberated for 20 seconds and sounded like Scott’s voice was on the verge for cracking the entire time. Yet, her trained vocals stayed in tune even after the dramatic opening. The song was chock full of rage and the sheer volume was enough to give the audience chills.
Scott paid tribute to her fellow band members and her opener, Northern Arms. Led by vocalist Keith Pierce, Northern Arms warmed up the crowd with upbeat Americana tunes. They slowed it down in the middle when back up singer, PJ Brown, stepped forward to perform a moving performance that brought her to tears.
After pumping us up with a series of angry sets, Torres ended the night with, “November Baby.” Her performance was slow and timid at first , but picked up during the instrumental breakdown.