The line to get in to the Manhattan Center Hammerstein Ballroom on Friday night (March 29) was impressively long -- it was 9:03 and Maggie Rogers was scheduled to start her headlining set at 9:10. It moved quick; the surprisingly diverse mix of concertgoers was buzzing with the kind of energy that only comes from seeing a show that makes you say years later, “I was there.”
At exactly 9:15, the lights inside the venue turned magenta and “Dancing Queen” blared from the speakers as Rogers’ band took its place. The general admission floor was packed to the bar. And finally, within minutes, the pop-rock hybrid star-in-the-making appeared in a silver top and white pants with her hair flowing long behind her.
From the moment Rogers dove into opener “Give A Little” one thing was entirely clear: She’s a big deal. Since she started promoting her first full-length Heard It In A Past Life, which dropped at the top of the year, her trajectory to the top has been expedited. She had a breakout moment on Saturday Night Live last November when she performed barefoot and in a vibrant red floor-length dress, opened Madison Square Garden for Mumford & Sons and earned her first No. 1 on Adult Alternative Songs with the rallying “Light On.”
Her set was a full-circle celebration. Only a few years ago, she was a student at New York University’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music -- by now everyone knows the story of her viral overnight success for breakout hit “Alaska” -- and now, she’s the force behind one of the most compelling debuts of the year, which made up most of the night’s setlist. (She released one prior EP in February 2017, from which “Dog Years” made it into the show.)
No matter the tempo of the track being performed, from electro-slow jams like “Say It” and “The Knife” to the more uptempo “Burning” and set-closer “Fallingwater,” Rogers danced through it all. And not even for the sake of performing, but because, it seemed, her music simply moved her. Her frequent full-body dancing caused a delay at one point: “Sorry, I’m still kind of out of breath,” she said in between songs. “I just really like to dance. I just need like, two seconds.”
Rogers, who performed on a stripped stage that allowed for well-timed, dramatic lighting to be the only design element, later laugh-cried while informing the crowd her next time playing in the city will be for two nights at Radio City Music Hall. And toward the end of the set, she stopped once more -- not because she was out of breath, but because she knew she was running out of time, and needed to say that she loved playing shows because, as the room illustrated, they bring so many different kinds of strangers together. “Clearly,” she said, “I am a person with a lot of feelings.”
Her encore consisted of just one final addition, “Color Song,” which she performed entirely alone and a cappella. She gave two rules: Don’t resist an oncoming sneeze, and if you had to leave while she’s singing, don’t. For a 24-year-old who became famous on the Internet’s timeline instead of her own, her show proved, more than anything else, that she is now finally, and rightfully, in control of her own narrative.