Maggie Rogers’ star shines bright at The Shrine

Maggie Rogers kicked off Women’s History Month with a bang Wednesday at The Shrine. It was a cold night in downtown LA but Rogers turned up the heat with a non-stop 90-minute set, blending 2019’s Heard It in a Past Life with 2022’s Surrender and a poignant moment with her longtime friend and former bandmate Del Water Gap all while commanding the stage for her outstanding The Feral Joy Tour. The outing which just concluded its U.S. run on Sunday at the historic Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco included a night at Radio City Music Hall, with Rogers headlining at just 28 years young, surprising fans with new wave legend David Byrne as special guest.

Del Water Gap, which is the name of Samuel Holden Jaffe’s band played a number of their indie-rock tunes including “Hurting Kind” with Jaffe in jeans and a long sleeve black shirt, later rocking the plain white t-shirt. Jaffe played guitar for the lively “Sorry I Am” with his band’s minimalist logo swooping across the screen in a loop. The vocals were solid on indie-pop tune “Better Than I Know Myself”, with he and his guitarist playing head-to-head, battling one another while on guitars. “Good to be home”, said Jaffe. “Contrary to my press bios, I live in Los Angeles. I met Maggie Rogers about 10 years ago. I was very shy and made music under the name Del Water Gap and she told me if I played a show she would sing with me, and here we are 10 years later”.

Jaffe and his band continued with the moody indie rock song “I Hope You Understand”, with guitars and drums kicking in well and Jaffe making use of the stage, singing with passion for a moment on his knees. He mentioned while getting ready for the tour he was thinking about covering his “favorite pop star”, but since she was playing after him, he mentioned his 2nd favorite, Avril Lavigne and a chill, more subdued but very good “Complicated” got the crowd singing along as Jaffe moved around the stage once again. “Avril Forever”, he said at the end. New song “Losing You” made an appearance and the guitar vamp on indie rock song “Distance” got the heads bopping throughout. Rock ballad “High Tops” was truly timeless and didn’t sound like it belonged to any particular era and the contrasting “Perfume” took the energy up a notch, with Jaffe really commanding the stage on the danceable pop tune. Del Water Gap concluded with “Ode to a Conversation Stuck in Your Throat”, another popular, freeing pop tune.

Maggie Rogers‘ pre-show song blasting on the speakers was appropriately Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime” and once the lights went down a short countdown hit the screen. Flowers decorated the stage’s instrument areas and lighting fixtures and the pre-show visual montage flashed Rogers’ lips in a B&W documentary-style opening, with her face sideways in some moments. The entertainer took center stage in sparkly boots, her new platinum blonde pixie cut, a white tank top and a little black skirt, lofted up above her band holding out a long note. Rogers threw her hand back at the band and rocked out to the first instrumental between verses of “Overdrive”, with the lights blazing behind her and the band of six musicians as she held out a glorious note. Surrender was played in its entirety, with “Want Want” turning up the tempo and giving Rogers her total rockstar moment under red lights. The performer (who writes and produces her music) smashed her impressive vocals, with the crowd singing along and Maggie’s hands up on just the right moment and the tune came to an abrupt yet fun ending leaving the crowd roaring for more.

 “Los Angeles, it’s nice to see you”, greeted Rogers. She returned to her debut album for the ballad “Say It”, soulful as ever, wavering into R&B territory with a sultry vocal and standout percussion as Rogers offered some sexy dance moves, serving up diva moments with her hand up and feeling comfortable in her own body. The tour in a lot of ways was a reawakening of Maggie Rogers’ power and her sexuality, stepping into herself not as an alias, not with an over-the-top costume or a stage show that was anything but about celebrating her music and herself as a woman. Rogers stood at the mic after dancing up a storm around the stage and bounced to different risers for the final moments, finally returning to the song’s ballad-like ending. She was still at the mic for the mid-tempo, 90s-tinged pop-rock track “Honey”, under bright bronze lights. Later she propped her leg up on a speaker like a badass at one moment, while another her hand was in the air, signaling the crowd to sway their arms back and forth. 

“How’s everybody doing?”, asked Rogers. “Before we came out here in our band huddle were like, remember, Los Angeles is really stiff. But this is one of the rowdier LA crowds. Is anyone in love right now? Sort of a lukewarm response. Anybody single here? It would be cool if people met at my show”. Rogers was on guitar for the “ooh ooh ooh” sunshine of “Love You for a Long Time”, with the crowd immediately excited. Rogers’ keyboardist Bryn Bliska harmonized beautifully on this tune and it had the essence of a classic John Mellencamp hit, with Rogers’ voice totally in the pocket here, soaring on some lovely phrases. A double-percussion section from drummer Avishai Rozen and percussionist JAB introduced “Shatter” with Maggie back at it again busting moves during the danceable rock song. It was sort of a more indie-rock side of what Pink might do if she were less pop. Pink and white lights flashed throughout and Rogers looked almost like she were in a boxing match on this one, venturing  back up to the top riser where she first entered, posed and triple-clapped.

Rogers took the pace down to an organic gem, the beautiful “Begging for Rain”, with bass player Brian Kesley blending in, clouds on the screen behind the band with some fog machine for effect and Bliska’s organ sweetly playing the melody. Rogers nailed some powerful notes and the harmonies at the end with Bliska were gorgeous. If Maggie released another single off her 2022 album, “Be Cool” would have been a good choice, a sort of evergreen friendship anthem, played with crew with red and blue circles enveloping the stage for the feel-good tune about slowing down. It sounds like it could be a long-lost sequel to Sophie B. Hawkins’ 1992 hit “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover” or Madonna’s 1994 hit “I’ll Remember” (also on this topic it’s important to add that Maggie’s current sound also sounds like Madonna’s “Don’t Tell Me”/folk-meets-electronic era).

An almost spiritual “Symphony” sounded like a hymn with lots of percussion, moving the mid-tempo with purple hues and strobes on the stage and both Kesley and Bliska harmonizing with Rogers. “Did anyone come here tonight with their best friend?”, asked Rogers. “I wrote this song for my absolute best friend, I wrote it as a birthday present and she was kind enough to let me put it on my record. And she’s here tonight”. After an applause, Rogers played acoustic guitar joined by Elise Poirier also on guitar as well as Bryndon Cook on bass on “I’ve Got a Friend”, swaying in unison throughout. The pleasant organ broke up the verses and Rogers did a spin and a pose with her arms out at the end and the fans loved every moment.

Del Water Gap’s Jaffe joined Rogers on stage and said “So 10 years ago we moved to New York City and we wrote this song, we were 18 and we have had so much fun playing this on tour”. Jaffe and Rogers each took a verse on their duet “New Song”, with one of the best notes of the night belted out by Rogers. They harmonized wonderfully on the folk-rock tune and set the mood, with Rogers strumming out the final moments on her banjo. Maggie Rogers’ first-ever single “Alaska” had pulsing drums and she danced it out while the fans echoed the song’s delicate “ooh oohs”. Rogers’ voice filled the room beautifully on the soulful “Back in My Body” with tribal rhythms keeping things going from JAB and Rozen. It was yet another feel-good tune with stunning harmonies from the two female musicians, Poirier and Bliska and finally four-part harmony with Cook, now on the keyboards. This song was all of the feels and one of the most empowering songs of the night. 

Rogers was back on guitar for the raw “Horses”, back in her sweet spot on the mid-tempo, paying careful attention to the dynamics, letting loose and also honing in on the gentle moments. This song in particular brought to mind an effortless vocal ability that could be compared to LeAnn Rimes’ pop side. Back on the riser, Rogers was silhouetted in the light for “Anywhere With You” which picks up with a danceable vibe by verse 2, smashing it on powerful phrasing and dancing on both sides of the stage. The lights flashed, she got her face in the camera that was on stage filming and another four-part harmony wrapped the song as the audience went wild with applause. The whole theater joined in on the massive hit “Light On” and collective chills were felt as the percussion and hand drums drove the beat and Rogers danced every which way. The crowd was amped for “That’s Where I Am”, a perfect pop song with incredible production featuring hand-clapping from Poirier. The anthemic tune was full of high energy, capturing friendship, love, togetherness and community and Rogers embodied all of it, spinning around, hitting massive notes by the end and the place erupted with so much satisfaction.

For Rogers’ encore, The Shrine was roaring like a stadium. The big boom of the drums meant earlier hit “Fallingwater” was next, a perfect encore song so soulful it’s basically on the cusp of gospel. The production again is magnificent and in this moment it was clear Maggie Rogers is ready for stadiums. She got the place clapping after a silent pause and you could feel the spirit with the “ooh ooh oohs” and stunning cooing at the bridge.

“It was the strangest experience to put out a record and tour it six months later”, said Rogers. “You’re not quite sure who’s holding your songs. The waiting time was hard but this tour has been so unbelievable because I realize you’ve had them all along”. She said this while strumming her guitar gently, mentioning the precious moment of getting people together in a room and how it gives her hope. After talking about the scary world we are living in she mentioned her two charities HeadCount and Planned Parenthood. The final moments were on acoustic guitar for the folk tune “Different Kind of World”, picking up with lights flashing and a rousing instrumental as the band rocked out. It was a moving conclusion to a wild night of talent and song. Rogers bowed and you could tell how appreciative she was of the moment. Aretha Franklin’s “Ain’t No Way” was heard as fans left the venue.

The above comparisons of Maggie Rogers to other artists are just a smattering of possibilities. The Best New Artist Grammy nominee is carving out a territory that is largely her own right now in a vastly oversaturated female pop landscape. The career artist truly encompasses the best of the best when it comes to female singers from the 80s, 90s and beyond. Maggie Rogers is poised for a superstardom due to risk-taking with genre, collaborating with many top talents already and embracing all of herself not only to inspire fans with her music but to challenge them to find their own strength and to create change.

Words by Michael Menachem
Photos by Ariel Goldberg