When Maggie Rogers bounds on stage at Glasgow’s SWG3, the room is instantly on her side. She quickly earns her new-found title of ‘Witchy Feminist Rockstar’ (founded in a tweet from a fan, and now printed across key rings and t-shirts at the merch stand) with her natural ability to slip seamlessly between throwing a party, and holding us all under her spell.
Throughout the gig, she seems genuinely awestruck at the confidence and volume with which the audience sing back to her. ‘I’ve never done gigs before where the audience would be able to know every word if they wanted to’, she laughs. They do now, as newer tracks from her album Heard it in a Past Life garner the same elated reaction as older songs such as ‘Dog Years’ and, of course, ‘Alaska,’ the song which won over a speechless Pharrell and caused Rogers’ viral success.
There is something refreshing about Rogers’ style of performance. Though always slightly ethereal, there is no affectation or pretence about her stage presence. She’s not here to sell a show of gimmicks or surprises. “I’ve always thought encores are kind of dumb,” she says just before her own, giving us a behind-the-scenes moment of honesty that adds to the mood of the gig, rather than detracting from it.
The first song of said encore, ‘Colour Song,’ sees Rogers tentatively taking away her microphone as she sings entirely a capella. She asks us almost apologetically beforehand to stay silent during this moment. Her unassuming manner and already established friendship with the audience means we listen, and she achieves the seemingly impossible: an entirely silent Glaswegian gig. As on the EP, the power of her voice is most striking in this song.
During more upbeat moments, her movements are as free and honest as her lyrics. As she dances manically across the stage, you get the impression that none of this is choreographed, that every Maggie Rogers gig is slightly different to the last. There is a rawness to her performance, perhaps less present on the album, which adds to this. Stripped of production, her music takes on a new life. It feels like she is sharing secrets with us from start to finish.
It is this feeling of something shared that seems to define a Maggie Rogers show. As she leaves the stage, her voice is replaced by Whitney Houston’s ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody,’ and at least half the audience stay behind, on this Sunday night with trains to catch, to dance on.
Rogers’ obvious joy in music and performance is clearly infectious. As the crowd poured out of SWG3 there was a sense of communal excitement, as well as little smugness at having experienced a Maggie Rogers gig in such an intimate venue. Given the current success of Heard it In A Past Life, selling out much bigger spaces seems like an inevitability for Rogers’ future – I can’t wait to see what she does with them.
Image: Andy Witchger via Flickr