Moving Pharrell Williams to tears is about as good a starting point to a career as you can get. Besides making a pretty compelling origin story, it's a point most musicians will never reach.
Yet Maggie Rogers' ambitions clearly run deeper than impressing superstar producers. Making her debut in Canada, the New York-based artist showcased her seemingly boundless talent in front of a rapt, sold out crowd.
Beginning with the chirping crickets of "Colour Song," Rogers worked through cuts from her excellent EP Now That the Light Is Fading, fleshing out her short set with unreleased numbers and a pair of covers.
Live, much of her naturalistic aesthetic, so present on record, was stripped away. But her performance made up for its absence as she moved to the beat, uninhibited. Yet, when not singing Rogers came across as truly mystified by her entire situation, several times mentioning how much her life had changed over the past year. Following "Dog Years" — an early highlight that got the crowd moving and singing along — Rogers appeared stunned by the reaction, quickly remarking that it was the best reception she and her three-piece band had so far received.
Donning a guitar mid-set — perhaps a nod to her pre-fame days as a folk singer — she spoke abstractly about the political situation in the States, joking "I wrote a song about my feelings — shocker." This and other heretofore unheard numbers hued close to the sound of her EP, though none had the stickiness of those five fine tracks. That being said, a lot can happen in translating numbers from stage to studio.
Ditching the guitar and moving her mic stand out of the way, she dropped a stunning cover of Neil Young's "Harvest Moon" that married the original's dusty shuffle to a modern electronic sound — its climax was perhaps her greatest vocal turn of the night, and the energy it engendered carried through to "On & Off" and finally "Alaska," which closed the main set.
Rogers returned to the stage, and though she admitted that she didn't think that young artists should do encores, she explained that she needed a comedown after the high of the main set. So, she came armed with her assured cover of the Sundays' "Here's Where the Story Ends," accompanied only by piano.
Judging from this performance, talent and ambition won't be problems for Maggie Rogers.