Sometimes you witness gigs that go above and beyond anything you can imagine. It’s a feat Maggie Rogers understands perfectly, captured and distilled in one specific moment as her headline set at Brixton Academy winds to a close. Standing front and centre on stage, after storming through over an hour of surprises, unbridled joy and infectious fun – she’s about to begin ‘Back In My Body’. Maggie talks about how London has been a constant theme and influence for her, thinking back to an early show at Omeara where before the show she was so panicked and worried. “I wish I could give that girl a hug and show her this.” Tonight means more than your usual night of celebration.
The whirlwind that took Maggie Rogers across the globe is well documented. One moment a student learning what path she may find in an art form she loves so much, the next playing big festival stages and packed nights in far-away continents. A sharp jump, that time away to form and craft debut album ‘Heard It In A Past Life’ is one full of learning to build again and of understanding what comes next. Assured and bold, it’s a collection that doesn’t try and combat the past, but dances in a fully formed future – one that’s taken her from two nights at KOKO down the road towards the end of last year to her biggest headline show not just in the UK, but of her entire career. How to mark it? With the sort of set that doesn’t just throw a grand ol’ party, but lays a marker that Maggie wants more, and is primed and ready to take it.
‘Give A Little’ is an opening that whacks away any last-minute nerves, a thriving dose of punchy pop that sees Maggie beaming across the stage with an energy that can only be embraced by the devoted crowd in front of her. The glitching bursts of ‘Burning’, ’Say It’ and ‘Overnight’ are prime examples of what has taken Maggie to this stage, with an ability to write the sort of songs that make themselves at home in your head while grabbing every part of your body to feel every twist and turn. Refreshing and immediate, Maggie Rogers has Brixton in the palm of her hand.
On course to storm the giant hall to pieces, it’s here where the night hits new heights. After nearly being drowned out by the response, Maggie introduces her “musical big sister and the most powerful witch I know”, Florence Welch, for a mind-blowing version of ‘Light On’ that any other night would own the entire show. With ‘On + Off’ and ‘Alaska’ following right after, it’s arguably the most impressive trio of songs you’ll see at a gig this year.
The entirety of ‘Heard It In A Past Life’ is displayed tonight. Maggie bounces across the stage to an emphatic version of ‘The Knife’ that manages to sound even larger live, and twists to whole new levels on ‘Retrograde’, before covering Taylor Swift’s ‘Tim McGraw’ with an emblazoned red cowboy hat thrown from the ground and mirrored with a raw touch on ‘Dog Years’. It brings home the path that’s led to this moment: the moments of uncertainty, the moments of worry, used as confetti to dance in the world she’s created.
As ‘Past Life’ ushers in the encore with Maggie singing a cappella before soaring and building the band around her, and a final curtain call to the warm and unifying ‘Fallingwater’, there’s a statement that rings loud. Maggie Rogers is stepping up. You can see it as the house lights come on and Brixton stays to dance and singalong to Whitney Houston’s ‘I Want To Dance With Somebody’ – this is more than a show. It’s a memory and a shot in the arm that music truly can create bonds, heal wounds and light up a room like no other.
This is Maggie’s stage now. The world should be watching.
Words: Jamie Muir