The scene SZA

Shows that rocked Toronto last week

NOW Magazine - - CONTENTS - Alex Hud­SoN

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.

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