A Maggie Rogers Concert Review
Eyelids were covered with varying intensities of glitter. Planned parenthood posters were
waving in the distance. ‘Twas the night of the Maggie Rogers concert.
If you have yet to succumb to the witchy powers of Miss Maggie Rogers, just give in already. She’s coming for us all, and there is nowhere to run. In 20 years, she’ll probably be our dystopian cult leader, but for right now she’s just finished out her last tour for her 2019 album, Heard It In A Past Life. Maggie’s hella interesting, endearing mix of pop, folk, dance, soul, and probably every other genre, makes for an incredible record, one that she so magically brought to life at EXPRESS LIVE! on September 28.
By the first 15 seconds of her opening with “Color Song,” a cover of an old sing-along camp song, I was already Kim K ugly crying and forgot how to shut my jaw. Multiple “ARE YOU KIDDING”s were heard throughout the crowd as her silhouette was outlined by backlighting, and the background synth kept building, to what is typically an a capella song. She could’ve ended the show after that, and it still would’ve been worth the $50.
Not only does Maggie have raw talent— a breathtaking voice that she can effortlessly switch between angelic falsettos and desperate, driving howls— but she has this immediately noticeable aura of self-assurance about her. You can tell she is so sure of her music, her voice, and of herself being on that stage. It’s impossible not to want to feel that with her.
Some highlights from the first half of her setlist include “Fallingwater,” probably her most vocally impressive song and also just… the best. Then there was “Burning” and “Say It,” two of her most dance-alongable songs. A notable lyric in “Burning” is, “I’m in love, I’m alive, oh I’m burning,'' which I think perfectly encapsulates the feelings felt when listening to Maggie’s music. At one point she whipped out a little never-before-heard demo of a new song of hers, “I’m Gonna Love You For A Long Time,” which had a twinge of a country feel to it, showcasing Maggie’s ability to create a wide range of songs.
One of the strongest motifs throughout her album is nature. Not only does she actually use natural sounds she has picked up hiking, but she often writes lyrics that ground her in her physical surroundings and uses those to describe and understand what’s going on in her life (see: “Alaska,” “Fallingwater,” “Retrograde,” “On + Off”). This was none more present than in her performance of “Past Life,” her halfway-through-the-album-piano-song. As the chorus built, so did the lights and (added) drums around Maggie, creating the illusion of a thunderstorm brewing around her. This part of the concert really brought the audience back to what arguably started this all for Maggie; her love of nature and her savvy ability to incorporate it into her very pop-y, dancey songs.
Another common theme throughout Maggie’s album and performance is ownership. Ownership of her body, of her words, of her feelings, and of her experiences. This really came through during her performance of “Back in My Body,” towards the end of the setlist. The song talks about how overwhelming the past few years have been for her, what with her virally blowing up in a matter of weeks, and how it has been a fight to get to the point where she feels like she is in control of both her art and her life. That is what this album and tour are— a celebration of the fact that she is finally the driver in her musical story. These are her songs, her art, and you can feel how much she owns and embraces every ounce of what she is saying. She sang every word of every song with as much conviction and emotion as you would assume she had when she wrote them. Her movements alone were enough to make you think she was feeling everything as presently and completely as when it happened to her. This was the magic about this concert— everyone in the room, and most of all, Maggie, looked like they were fully experiencing and absorbing the music as it was happening.
One thing was absolutely clear watching her dance on stage, as if it might be the last time she’s ever allowed to move. Music flows through Maggie vibrantly and forcefully— as if she was electrocuted. With her album Heard It In A Past Life, there’s this feeling with her music that she is hearing and creating it in a way that she is not always conscious of— that the music kind of rises up within her, and she is able to channel it into these three minute masterpieces. This fully came out on stage, as she danced and moved with so much passion and force that she looked as though she couldn’t stop the music coming from her if she wanted to. Maggie wasn’t just performing her music— she is the music.
The last song of the night was her infamous acoustic version of the coolest dance song ever, and 2017’s insane, viral hit, “Alaska.” As beautiful and lively and colorful is the original version of “Alaska”, the acoustic is something else. Its beauty is so achingly simple and shows the audience that her choice to make pop songs is one of want, not of necessity to make up for something lacking, as seems to happen sometimes with pop music. If she was only allowed a guitar and her voice for the rest of her career, she would shine just as much. Before she started playing, she explained how this was the song that started it all, and how it has become something so much bigger than she had planned, so it only makes sense to close out the night and close out the last tour for this album with “Alaska.” It felt like a personal handshake from Maggie, a thank you just for being there to appreciate what she has created. As this song is so often associated with Pharell and the internet’s ability to make an instant star, my guess is this was Maggie’s goodbye (at least for now) to this song and to the first chapter of her career. Who knows the next time she will grace us with it, as she seems to be the type of person not to dwell on the past and throws herself wholeheartedly into her next work. I can’t even begin to imagine how our new folk-pop queen will top this album and tour, but I know she will because she is Maggie Rogers, and we are just her humble subjects awaiting any content whatsoever that she decides to bless us with. In the meantime, restock on your glitter eyeshadow and polish off those cowgirl boots, because as a vocalist, as a musician, as a lyricist, as a performer, and as an artist, Maggie is here to create.