Maggie Rogers took the stage at The Armory in Minneapolis on a chilly winter evening, with the audience packed and ready for her soulful, folk-inflected pop. Before her performance, opener Del Water Gap set the tone with their own brand of introspective indie rock. Though the two acts differ in style, they share a knack for crafting songs that feel deeply personal.
Del Water Gap, the moniker for singer-songwriter S. Holden Jaffe, kicked off the evening with a set that leaned heavily on material from his latest, self titled album. Jaffe’s voice was a warm and inviting presence, lending weight to his heartfelt lyrics. Jaffe took a moment to talk about how much Minneapolis means to him, and how welcomed he’s always felt here. He also made note that The Armory is much larger than The Fine Line Music Cafe down the street, where he last played when he was in town.
Jaffe appears to have taken notes on stage presence from Maggie Rogers, who he’s collaborated on and off with over the last ten years. Like Maggie, Jaffe made full use of the stage, feet up on speakers, and briefly hopping on top of a subwoofer during “Sorry I Am”, nearly venturing into the crowd had it not been for the corded microphone holding him back. Mixed in with his own songs were a couple of surprises, one from Avril Lavigne “The second best pop star next to Maggie” he said, before performing “Complicated” and a new, unreleased song Jaffe is road testing called “Losing You.”
Anticipation was high for Maggie Rogers’s return to touring following the release of her sophomore album “Surrender”. We spoke earlier on the events that had lead to “Surrender” and a review of the album when it was released last year. Maggie’s Feral Joy tour was sure to be focused on the new music, opening with the infectious “Overdrive.” Her band, which included a drummer, percussionists, keyboardista, and guitarists, added an extra dimension to her already dynamic sound. Rogers’ voice was in fine form, alternately soulful and airy. The crowd erupted in cheers when she launched into the buoyant “Say It,” a song that showcased her ability to craft ear-worm hooks.
Rogers’s last shows in the midwest were during her “Past Life” tour in 2019, following the release of her debut album that quickly put her in the spotlight. During her last show at the Armory, Rogers seemed to get overwhelmed with the crowd size and the positive response to her music, laughing and smiling ear-to-ear in between songs as she waved to the crowd. Now, she seems much more comfortable – and much more in command. While it may have a lot to do with what she’s studied on a Ivy League level, Her genuine enthusiasm and confidence was infectious, and the crowd responded with enthusiastic cheers. She made sure no square inch of the stage was missing her footprint, and performed nearly every song with an energy that almost never flagged, sans a couple of restarts and flubbed pre-choruses.
The highlight of Rogers’ set was her hit single “Light On,” a song that has become an anthem of sorts for anyone who has ever felt overwhelmed by life’s challenges. The audience sang along to every word, and the emotion in the room was palpable. Rogers closed out her main set with a rousing performance of “Thats Where I Am,” her self described “90’s movie ending song” with her voice soaring over the crashing drums and swirling synths.
With a 21 song setlist, less than a quarter of the songs came from Roger’s debut album “Heard It In a Past Life”, an album that many people consider to be a classic album that had, quite literally, changed lives. At the end of the night, acoustic guitar in hand, Maggie spoke honestly about the differences between cycles of her debut album and “Surrender” saying that while “Heard It In A Past Life” started small before reaching a climatic, beautiful crescendo that seemed to grow and grow, “Surrender” hasn’t had that same kind of response, “It kind of feels like the internet just swallowed it up” she said. “Heard It In A Past Life” has the unique pleasure of being an album that has lived on repeat during a global pandemic where so many who had turned to music as a release, while Surrender still is new, and doesn’t yet have the patina of a worn in album. But to the crowd at The Armory, that didn’t matter. The dancing to the newer songs with pounding beats like “Anywhere With You” and “Want Want” quite literally shook the floor of the venue. While we’re not sure what kind of goals Maggie wanted to reach with “Surrender’s” performance, Her live performance is absolutely one of a kind.
As I watched the large video wall project live shots of the audience, it was exciting to see the first few rows, quite literally hundreds of people, just outright dancing to her songs with no phone in hand. With phones away, everybody’s dancing, and nobody’s judging. It was a testament to the power of live music. Both Rogers and Del Water Gap brought their A-game, delivering performances that were passionate and engaging. The crowd responded in kind, dancing and singing along to every song. It’s clear that both acts have bright futures ahead of them, and it was a privilege to witness them early in their tour. “We’ll see you real soon” Maggie said before a bow and waving goodbye. Like everyone in attendance, I sure hope so. We need Maggie Rogers.