The scene SZA
Shows that rocked Toronto last week
ñSZA at Rebel, Wednesday, August 23. Rating: NNNN A few songs into her set, SZA shared an anecdote about how she doesn’t like house parties, recounting a memory of a disappointing night when she showed up dressed to the nines but the guy she liked failed to respond to her flirtations.
Her complaint about parties seemed deeply ironic when at that moment the St. Louis- born R& B singer was overseeing a particularly rapturous one. The excitement inside the club had reached a fever pitch. Even her band’s noodling sound- check inspired chants and screams from the gathered fans, who clearly showed up ready to cut loose on a school night.
SZA began with Supermodel from her recently released debut LP, Ctrl – the most unlikely party anthem imaginable. A stark dirge with little more than dour guitar strums to support SZA’s emoting, the joyless tale of revenge sex found the vocalist asking, “Why am I so easy to forget like that?” On record it’s heart- wrenching; in concert it’s a defiant celebration, with everyone hollering along to every word and threatening to drown the singer out.
This opening number set the tone for the night, as the artist born Solana Rowe transformed her emotionally complex lyrics into cathartic anthems. The songs documented the turbulent ups and downs of relationships – from the empowered raunchiness of Doves In The Wind to the body- image grappling of Garden ( Say It Like Dat), from moving on after a fling in Love Galore to the messy love triangle of The Weekend.
SZA’s soulful tunes got a jazzy, densely syncopated boost from her three backing musicians, and the singer strutted and shook her voluminous mane while wearing a thong onesie and comfy- looking Adidas trackpants. The band played along to pre- recorded Ctrl guest verses from rappers Travis Scott and Kendrick Lamar. ( Lamar, playing across town at the Air Canada Centre, was unavailable for a cameo.)
SZA only has one official fulllength album, so her material was stretched thin by the one- hour mark. She had already hit most of Ctrl’s high points when she asked if fans had any song requests. She granted a call for her deep cut Drake/ PartyNextDoor rework TwoAM, but her hurried a cappella rendition missed the mark. Babylon, from SZA’s 2014 EP Z, featured an effectively raunchy bass squelch, but it lacked the wild crowd recognition of her more recent album tracks. There was no encore, making for an anticlimactic finale to what was otherwise a high- energy gig.
Still, after a show like this, whoever that guy was who didn’t reciprocate her advances must be kicking himself now.