At a relatively medium-sized venue like the Powerstation in Auckland, it’s always fun to play the guessing game of which artist sells out a show. The Raconteurs? Absolutely! Happy Mondays, almost twice? 100% unexpected, but whatever floats your boat. Maggie Rogers? Now THAT is a tough one to gauge (spoiler: she did). I was familiar with Rogers’ pre-release singles - and the viral video of her song Alaska visibly moving Pharrell Williams - but I was curious what made her a presence strong enough to fill a room. Turns out it was a bout of good old-fashioned pop music. No brainer.
With Stella Donnelly’s chipper opening set, you’d be fooled for thinking you were attending a comedy special with a splash of heartfelt indie folk-rock. A lot of her lyricism felt in the same vein as Courtney Barnett or Lily Allen, alternating between scathing and charming in the blink of an eye. Her hilarious stage presence never failed to undersell tracks like the “uplifting song” Die or overtly political Beware of the Dogs, all delivered in slightly twee but never fragile vocal delivery. She may have been joking about nerves, but for a debut New Zealand show, Donnelly was cool as can be. Here’s to more shows in the future!
The Powerstation was so packed I could barely see Rogers whipping out from backstage, dancing from one corner of the stage to the next - a testament to the power of the young songstress. Multiple emotional intermissions, with Rogers talking about how far she’s come from Maryland and being freely vulnerable on stage, added heft to her particular brand of anthemic pop balladry. Far from being self-absorbed with all the talk of her personal growth, Rogers was a particularly inclusive frontwoman, making sure everyone in the room received attention - even enthusiastically hyping up her backing guitarist during a solo. You get the sense that she’d be giving it all in any kind of venue with any kind of people, and that warmth bleeds from her personality into her music.
The most interesting dynamic of Rogers’ music is how each song’s deceptively subtle textures and layers are anchored to Maggie’s consistently powerful vocals.
With her voice matching both soaring guitars on Retrograde or sombre piano on Past Life, they all feel quite faithful to their studio renditions, leading to performances that are familiar but not to the point of disinterest. The crowd was certainly more than familiar with the lyrics, turning a song like Light On from an expression of gratitude to a cyclical expression of love, from Rogers to fans and vice versa. You could see Rogers holding some tears back in the aftermath, and after that performance, I was in the same boat, to be honest.
Ultimately, Maggie Rogers proved to be an artist comfortable in her own skin, and as she described her show at the Powerstation as a “house party”, that label was aptly fulfilled. At the same time, a final quiet encore, dedicated to the power of calming down together, showcased the pure beauty of Rogers’ art. A single light, a single mic, a single acapella performance of contemplative deep cut Color Song, and a single request: “If you have something to yell, please don’t.” The fact that it was pulled off flawlessly speaks to the sway she has over her audience. It’s the kind of experience that makes you wonder just what she could achieve with superstardom. She certainly has the chops to get there.
Maggie Rogers' setlist:
- Give a Little
- Say It
- Split Stones
- On + Off
- Dog Years
- The Knife
- Light On
- Past Life
- Back In My Body
- Color Song (acapella)