The last time Mackenzie Scott, AKA Torres, visited Manchester was March 2020. Without stating the obvious, a lot has happened since, but this is also the case for the Georgia native and her latest album Thirstier, released back in the summer of last year documents this in a typically candid way. What unfolds in the sweaty confines of the Night & Day Cafe is brutal at times but always compelling.
In the support slot, Soren Bryce’s band Tummyache certainly contribute to the rising temperature. We’re treated to a bunch of tracks from the recently released debut record Soak, which demonstrate Bryce’s ability to balance raw emotion on tracks like the brilliant ‘Managing Expectations’ with bouts of melodic shoegazing. Entertaining shifts in tempo maintain a punkish unpredictability to proceedings but the Texan’s charming stage presence ensures that time in her company is never too volatile.
Experiencing Torres live is always a very different experience to the one you will have on record. The album version of opener ‘Greener Stretch’ is quite disciplined in it’s structure, but this evening the creative seams appear to be splitting. “Your boots are excellent!’ shouts a fan. Indeed, there is also a pretty substantial pedal board lying at Mackenzie’s cowboy boot bedecked feet indicating the sonic adventures that we will be embarking upon. Perhaps the attire reveals her southern roots (as well as the lap steel guitar that accompanies Scott’s more postmodern flourishes) and Scott’s manipulation of her guitar is enthralling, as the various layers of second track of the evening ‘Are You Sleepwalking’ are revealed.
This innate creativity of this evening’s show brings to mind a raft of contemporaries such as Annie Clarke, Angel Olsen and Sharon Van Etten, but there is a fragility and an honesty to Torres at times that ensures these echoes don’t become derivative. We travel back in time to The Silver Tongue section of the show. ‘Good Scare’ and ‘Good Grief’ provide a nice reminder of the record’s subtleties amidst more jagged moments. As the evening progresses the heat plays havoc with her tuning and the extended pauses give Mackenzie moments to discuss her pandemic journey which slightly derailed the themes and more upbeat tone of the new record. One of these extended moments allows an opportunity to explain the family tragedy behind ‘Big Leap’. There are many songs this evening that elicit a very physical emotional response from Mackenzie as she performs, but this one is particularly poignant.
‘Hug from a Dinosaur’ adds a bit of levity to proceedings and ‘Don’t Go Puttin’ Wishes in My Head’ is a huge college rocker. Maybe a little too orthodox for some, a little too anthemic perhaps considering what has preceded it, but boy does it kick ass! ‘Thirstier’ maintains these anthemic tones. Perhaps this is the next cathartic stage for Mackenzie Scott. There’s a little Lady Gaga in her gait, a lot of Este Haim in her physicality but musically its all Mackenzie Scott and it’s absolutely thrilling.
Words & Images by Iain Fox