Maggie Rogers Conquers Emotional NYC Homecoming
April 18, 2017
It felt inevitable that Tisch alum Maggie Rogers would be brought to tears at some point during her concert at Bowery Ballroom on April 11. After all, New York is the place that shaped and ultimately birthed her career. Her sold-out show marked her return after the kind of year most musicians only dream of. Who could possibly imagine the humbling weight of that performance? Rogers took what could have easily just been flash-in-the-pan viral success and turned her fifteen minutes of fame into something vibrantly real. Her stunning performance in her Tisch songwriting masterclass will always be a big part of her story, but it will not be all of it — her live show proved that.
Rogers opened the show with a beautiful performance of “Color Song,” which, with its gentle harmonies and hymn-like quality, is perhaps the most direct link between her old life as a banjo-playing singer-songwriter and the more pop-leaning space she now occupies. It was a smart choice for first song, placing her outside the traditional pop music realm. It even felt a degree separated from similarly minimalist stars like Lorde and Tove Lo.
Even on songs that echo those artists, like “Split Stones” or “On + Off,” the way Rogers inhabits the tunes on stage lends them an air of campfire intimacy and community that sets her apart. There’s a shyness behind her most grandiose moments that only makes her even more endearing to the people in the crowd.
Rogers’ self-acknowledged lack of material — her five-song EP “Now That The Light Is Fading” is her only official release — also necessitated that she fill out the set with a smattering of other songs, giving listeners a chance to better understand her musical world. New songs like “Say It” and “Hashtag” both managed to sound like her while evoking the disparate worlds of ‘90s R&B slowjams and guitar-driven folk rock respectively.
She also treated the audience to “Little Joys,” a song that appeared on her self-released 2014 album “Blood Ballet,” which she identified as the first song she ever wrote in New York from the confines of her NYU dorm.
But the song of the night goes to one that Rogers didn’t even write — a stellar cover of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” that took the laidback acoustic original and morphed it into a slowly blossoming synth pop triumph. While fighting back tears, she offered the audience her gratitude.
“Thank you to everyone in this room for letting me do this,” Rogers said. “I just really love music.”
That sentiment contains the sincerity and the humility that has made Rogers an atypical star. Here is someone who went to school to study the intricacies of a career in music and who just one year later is having songs she wrote sung back to her by hundreds of people night after night. You can’t help but see the path to something greater on the horizon. In fact, the Bowery show already feels like just a moment in time, a snapshot to look back on when Rogers’ folk-pop stylings are dominating top-40 radio and think, “I was there when….”
Just wait and see what happens when she’s got an album or two under her belt.
Email Carter Shelter at [email protected]