TORRES, live at Borderline, November 13th
Originally born in Georgia, Mackenzie Scott, alias TORRES, has been basing her career as a musician around Nashville, Tennessee – a city automatically associated with a rich history of great songwriters. TORRES moved to Nashville four years ago and shortly after started performing onstage, her sophisticated songwriting accompanied by an acoustic guitar. But it wasn’t until a few years later, when she received her first electric guitar – a Gibson 335 – that all the pieces neatly slipped into place and she started developing her beautifully raw and compelling sound. Her self-titled debut album was released in Europe just last week.
Not long after nine o’ clock, TORRES takes the stage of Soho venue Borderline, kicking off the show with a heavy, gritty start built upon bold drumbeats and captivating guitar riffs. Dressed entirely in black, with straight dark brown hair and downcast gaze, she initially comes across as introvert and perhaps a little shy. For the first song, she cradles her guitar and rarely meets the audience’s eyes. But when it comes to this young singer-songwriter, first impressions are often deceiving. Soon enough TORRES unleashes a raw energy, she’s shouting into the microphone, pushing her voice to its limits of intensity, jumping up and down on the stage as she shakes her head, her dark hair swirling in front of her face as she plunges into a Neil Young-esque guitar solo. Right from the first song, Mother Earth, Father God (also the opening track on the album), she brandishes her distinctive trademark as her voice switches from being deep and rough to soft and angelic and back again. The crowd applauds briefly but passionately before falling silent as she tunes her guitar for the next song. “You’re so quiet,” she says – although the silence is probably a result of the intimate bond she has created with her audience.
Moon and Back definitely holds some autobiographical connotations, a characteristic inherent to all her songs. Some are heavier and more aggressive, others softer, more melodic, but they all share what come across as deeply personal lyrics. Throughout TORRES’s music, there’s an unequivocal sense of sincerity and truthfulness. “You’re so polite,” she says at the end of the song, and her gentle modesty is undeniable.
Her third song in, Jealousy and I, could well be her strongest song, capturing the overwhelming variety of her vocal range and styles as well as her nostalgic lyrics. Not only that, but the chorus is quite catchy, which makes it a song which stays with you long after the show: “Jealously gets me sometimes but I don’t mind no I don’t mind, Jealously gets me sometimes but I don’t mind no I don’t mind, ‘cause Jealousy and I, we’re two of a kind…” she cries. What starts as a heartbreaking set of delicate guitar notes towards the end becomes a powerful riot of distortion with raw, despairing vocals.
TORRES introduces a new song, timidly admitting of being “bored with the album” (which was realised in America in the beginning of this year). A Proper Polish Welcome is one of her more melodic and delicate songs and features a gentle arpeggio. Borderline greets it with warmth. The chorus repeats “I wish I was the sea, I wish I was the sea, I wish I was the sea”, which is an interesting analogy because it quite accurately describes her range, both of voice and mood – one minute calm and gentle and the next, suddenly, unpredictably violent and gritty.
She saves her debut single for the middle of the set, acting as a centrepiece. The first time I heard Honey my mind freely associated the flaring guitar and husky voice with Mark Lanegan – it’s not a very adequate comparison, I admit, although a lot of her songs do bring to mind similar renowned musicians. Hearing her perform live, her songs somehow feel more personal, more pure. On stage, she sets free this intensity and fervour which feels slightly constrained in her recorded versions – not that this diminishes the album in any way, rather that, in a live context, TORRES introduces a whole new intimate dimension, which is exactly what makes her performances so powerful.
TORRES plays a couple more songs before the finishing piece, Waterfall: “Nowhere to go but down, nothing to do but drown,” it recites, but it’s quite clear that for Mackenzie Scott there’s nowhere to go but up. She finishes the song – and the show, with a burst of heavy, distraught distortions, before sweetly blowing a kiss to the audience. Afterwards, she returns to the stage for an encore, a song “in honour of November, one of my favourite months”. November Baby is so tender, so melancholic that I can almost imagine a violin softly accompanying her in the background: a delicate goodbye to an otherwise beautifully staggering show marked by an inspiring energy and rawness.
Written for The Seventh Hex