“This is the story of what happened when I finally gave in – when I felt it all” – Maggie Rogers’ voice called out to the audience in a monologue backed by her six-piece band, whilst a dim red light pulsed on stage. Seconds later, the stage was fully illuminated by colours of white and red as Rogers entered dancing (as she spent the rest of the night) in a vinyl leather jacket, iridescent white dress and knee-high leather boots. The crowd erupted into chaotic applause and she began vocalising to the introduction of ‘Overdrive’, the opening track from her latest album, Surrender.
The American singer rose to fame in 2016 after her song ‘Alaska’ impressed musical legend, Pharrell Williams in a viral clip. In the years following, she would release her folk-pop debut LP Heard It In A Past Life (2019) – which earned her a Grammy Award nomination for Best New Artist in 2020 – and embark on a headline world tour as well as support both HAIM and Kacey Musgraves on their headline tours in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
Notably, she would go on to collaborate with indie-folk singer, Phoebe Bridgers on a cover of ‘Iris’ by The Goo Goo Dolls, which Bridgers had promised to make if Donald Trump lost the US elections in 2020. They released the song for 24 hours on Bandcamp with proceeds going to Fair Fight Action and recently rereleased it, this time with proceeds going to The Brigid Alliance. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Rogers, after an intense four years, retreated to Maine, where the seeds of inspiration for her second album would begin to sprout. In July 2022, she released her electropop influenced sophomore album, Surrender, written in her parents’ garage, New York City, and the UK.
On November 5, she brought her Feral Joy tour to Manchester’s o2 Victoria Warehouse, her largest show of the tour at the time of the performance. The night began with a charming set from indie pop/rock singer Samia, who opened with the slow-building, tearjerker ‘Pool’, from her debut album The Baby. She described her set as “mostly sad” but still found a way to bust a move during almost every guitar solo.
Samia mainly played songs from her debut album, including ‘Big Wheel’ and ‘Is there Something in the Movies?’, and her latest synthpop single ‘Mad at Me’ from her upcoming second album Honey. She complimented Rogers’ “feral joy” effortlessly and will be headlining her first (sold out) UK headline show at XOYO in London on November 11.
As ‘Overdrive’ ended and the distorted drums from her single ‘Want Want’ began, Rogers was grinning ear to ear, visibly “finding peace in distortion” as she claimed in her album trailer published to YouTube ahead of the album’s release. She then led into her R&B influenced track ‘Say It’ from her first album, then ‘Honey’ and crowd favourite ‘Love You for A Long Time’.
When there was a brief technical difficulty during ‘Symphony’, resulting in Rogers leaving the stage, her band took centre stage until her return which ended in an impressive jazz-inspired improvisation of ‘Love You For A Long Time’. During the set, Rogers stated that she’d “been waiting three years for this” and she seemed just as excited to play her older popular songs such as ‘Alaska’ and ‘Back In My Body’ as her newer ones such as ‘Anywhere With You’.
When she was not dancing with a plain white sheet as a backdrop (a clear nod to the album title), she had an acoustic guitar in hand and flexed her extensive vocals with her slower songs such as ‘Horses’. On the track, she yearns to feel the freedom of wild horses, and the performance ended with her tearing up, in awe of hearing the crowd sing the words back to her.
She certainly knew how to command the crowd as, during ‘Light On’, she managed to get the entire venue to get down on the floor before the final chorus. This resulted in an extended applause from the crowd. Following this, she led into the lead single from Surrender, ‘That’s Where I Am’, in which she sings, “It all works out in the end / Wherever you go / That’s where I am” – a thoughtful sentiment to sing to such a devoted crowd. Throughout the show, the singer left no section of the daisy-covered stage untouched and even handed out bouquets of daisies to the crowd at the end.
It was as if there was electricity pulsing through Rogers’ veins the entire night, but most significantly, in the middle of her set, when she performed ‘Shatter’. During the bridge, she sang, “I just wish that I could hear a new Bowie again” before crumpling to the floor. Within seconds, though, she was back up yelling the words, “I don’t really care if it nearly kills me / I’d give you the world if you asked me to” to a dancing crowd of cowboy hats and glittery faces. Rogers, choking up due to the shear passion of the crowd, closed the encore with ‘Fallingwater’ and then ‘Different Kind of World’. She described the latter as an “ending prayer”, and it was a soothing end to a thrilling night.
Surrender is out now, and you can stream it below.