Review: A Happy as Can Be Torres Rocked the Empty Bottle
I had originally planned to see Torres, the incredible project of Mackenzie Scott, last year, right around my birthday. Then the pandemic hit and pushed everything away. At the time Torres was touring on her excellent album Silver Tongue, and I was so disappointed I wouldn’t get to see it live. Flash forward to a year and five months later, Torres is back in Chicago at the Empty Bottle, touring behind a completely different album. Thirstier continues her evolution from angry and lovelorn to happy and joyously in love. It’s a side of Torres that is incredibly welcome after being away from constant live music for so long. And as the night showed, we were all just so happy to be back at the Empty Bottle.
Opening up the night was Ariana and the Rose, whose sound is a completely different (but welcome) beast than that of Torres. Focusing in on more dance-y grooves and synths that would make any club go nuts, Ariana DiLorenzo was energetic and engaging. Delighting the crowd with stories of her love life before “Fuckboy” or going into details of just how some songs just needed to be hers, Di Lorenzo was beyond confident on stage. She finished off her set with “Every Body“, a bombastic club banger that left everyone with smiles on their faces with its inclusiveness and undeniable catchiness. (I guarantee you’ll be randomly saying “this disco is for ever body” randomly after hearing this song).
The second that Torres and her band made their way on stage, everyone could immediately feel the energy that Mackenzie Scott was bringing. “I feel like I’m going to cry,” she quietly said, feeling so grateful to finally be back on tour. They broke into “Are You Sleeping Walking,” one of the most dissonant and dizzying songs on Thirstier. It’s filled with crazy tone shifts that draw you in before changing again. The track closes out with Scott chanting “I’m gonna chase the answers with you,” a clear message of commitment that Thirstier, and now the crowd, relishes in.
Throughout the night Torres would continue to address the crowd with those nearly teary eyes of joy and give some added background to songs. While the story of “Big Leap” speaks for itself, Scott’s thoughtful words about her father’s accident made the already powerful song all the more intense. Scott’s thoughts on “Sprinter” and the album of the same name also opened up some interesting avenues. Again her current mindset, leaning hard towards the positives in her life, almost brushes away the anger on her past albums. “It’s about mercy now, I think” she uttered before ripping into the track.
The setlist understandably focused heavily on Thirstier, giving her previous albums Sprinter, Three Futures, and Silver Tongue near equal amount of attention. If there was anything that could be seen as a slight is the lack of songs off her self-titled debut. But as the night embraced the newer songs, it made total sense and was the better for it. Standouts like Thirstier’s titie track, which Scott described as her corniest love song she could write, and “A Hug from a Dinosaur” really rocked the room. “A Hug from a Dinosaur” in particular felt like an anthem from a ’90s alt rock band with its soaring instrumentals and Scott belting out “She is hungry, she is thirsty / But she don’t wanna stop for lunch / No time to spare so I’m gonna bring her some” in glorious fashion. A few lines later appear lyrics that truly encompass who we were all feeling at this show: “What comprises all this joy I feel and where was it before / Ancient and eternal, and surreal as a hug from a dinosaur!”
While the set seemed to be done at “Helen in the Woods,” a song that exploded live and left the band looking exhausted and satisfied with their performance; there was still one more moment that Scott wanted to leave us with. Coming back out, she quietly and sincerely began a story. A story of breaking up with her girlfriend, writing this song with intentions of getting her back, and ultimately reuniting and becoming engaged. “I was an asshole,” Scott sheepishly confessed before giving the crowd a beautiful rendition of “Gracious Day.” The song places you so tightly in Scott’s mindset, leaving you as hopeful as she was as she sings “I don’t want you going home anymore, I want you coming home.” It’s so tender and loving and as the song exits with “No surprise, honey, I’m gonna love you all my life” that the crowd is left as happy as Torres currently is.
All photos by Julian Ramirez
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