Torres at Oslo Hackney

I never expected to write this review.

Sometimes surprises aren’t all positive

Torres over the last few years has been consistently amongst my favourite artists. All her albums have been amongst my favourites of the year and in 2015, Torres was my favourite artist who produced the best album and put on the best gig of the year . I have never seen a bad performance from Torres, and I still haven’t. Kind of…

The evening started badly. It wasn’t possible to drive to my home railway station as the motorway was closed so I had to drive a station where there are less frequent and slower trains which meant it was going to be a very late night.

Arriving at Highbury and Islington, I was directed to catch a bus as the Overground was closed due to a power failure. The bus had just departed and the next one was 20 minutes later. So I headed off walking to Hackney, figuring that I could pick a bus up on the way.

20 minutes later, the right bus hadn’t passed so I took a more direct route to the venue. Arriving drenched through, thinking I would buy a Torres t-shirt so I had dry clothes. No, no merch. I had to apply the old drying clothes under the hand dryer routine. To cap off the trip, it turns out Beats headphones aren’t waterproof and they started to play up when I tried to switch them off! Not a good start to the evening…..

Still…… It’s Torres. Torres. Torres who never fails to impress…….

Torres was touring with a new band to support her new excellent album, Silver Tongue. While, I don’t think it is her strongest album, by all other metrics, it’s a great album and will most likely feature in my top albums of the year. So I had no worries about this being another blinding Torres gig.

Unfortunately, I didn’t factor in both the venue’s sound and the new band. In my usual position, ‘Down at the Front’, there’s always the risk that the sound in a small venue is a mixture of sound system, amps and monitors. I’m not sure if some of the monitors were really loud, but the sound balance was awful. With Torres low in the mix and her new guitarist and drummer over-powering the sound.

Normally, this isn’t too detrimental. But I’m not sure the band members were suited for Torres music and the sound balance seemed to highlight this. The drummer (who looked familiar) had a very big sound, like he was backing an arena rock band. Often, the drum patterns didn’t seem to be for the same songs. At certain points it was really distracting as he powered through songs significantly altering their dynamics.

Also really distracting was the second guitarist/slide guitarist. Slide is an acquired taste and to be honest, the slide guitar wasn’t too distracting but equally, it didn’t enhance songs I had heard previously. However, it was when the guitarist switched from slide and acted as a second guitar that things went really wrong.

I have seen Thurston Moore loads of times. Thurston likes surrounding himself with guitarists who are interested in building music from lawyers of noise and who can improvise. The guitarist seemed to be a lost member of a defunct Thurston Moore band. Playing lots of noise and feedback on his guitar that often appeared to be improvised. I suspect this would actually work if it wasn’t for how loud he was in the mix. Whenever he played, he completely drowned out Torres’s guitar and vocals and his scratchy guitar became really distracting. I hope it was monitor leak and on a different night at a different venue, I would love the sound. But tonight, the balance really undermined my enjoyment of the gig.

Given all the travel issues and how much I had been looking forward to this gig. This was a major disappointment. When I could hear Torres she was her usual self. Her stage and vocal performance was up to her usual standards, but tonight it seemed like there was less of Torres performing and this was more of a shared performance. Maybe that’s the direction she wants to head. But having seen Torres hold a Primevera crowd in rapt appreciation with just her guitar and her amazing voice. I didn’t feel new band enhanced her sound. I wanted more Torres

With all the disruption to the Overground, I could see that the later train had been cancelled and it would lead to a lot of waiting around at stations and a very late night before I got home. At all previous Torres performances, I would have been happy to accept this. Tonight, I didn’t feel that way and I sadly bailed on the last song as I didn’t want to hear another song undermined by a poor sound mix. I suspect this was a one-off. I really hope so.

Set List:

  • Good Scare
  • Dressing America
  • Three Futures
  • Last Forest
  • Cowboy Guilt
  • Record of Your Tenderness
  • Skim
  • Sprinter
  • New Skin
  • A Few Blue Flowers
  • Honey
  • Gracious Day
  • Good Grief
  • Helen In The Woods