When Maggie Rogers released her debut album, “Heard It in a Past Life,” in January of this year, it took many by surprise. She started to gain a cult following with the viral publicity her track “Alaska” received in 2016 from her appearance with Pharrell Williams on MasterClass, which left the legendary artist speechless. She followed up that moment in the limelight with her 2017 project “Now That The Light Is Fading,” which featured fan favorites like “Dog Years” and “On + Off,” the latter of which ended up on her debut LP. Though she had been accumulating a dedicated fan base, it would be fair to say it was her album this year that rocketed her into prominence — a prominence that was more than evident at her show on the Skyline Stage at the Mann Oct. 4.
It couldn’t have been a more perfect night for an outdoor show. If you haven’t been to the Skyline Stage, or the Mann in general, I’ll break it down for you. The Mann itself is an amphitheater that can seat about 14,000 attendees. The Skyline Stage is a festival-style stage located a bit further uphill behind the main amphitheater. It lives up to its name. If you look east from the crowd you can see the Philadelphia skyline in all its beauty. On this particular night, with the show starting early at about 6 p.m., you could see the large breadth of the sky as the sun set, emitting pink and orange hues to the sounds of Rogers’ opening act, Empress Of.
Empress Of is a Honduran-American pop singer/songwriter who shares Rogers’ “dreamy” aesthetic. She performed a fairly brief set, about 30 minutes long, that consisted of cuts off from her 2015 album “Me” and 2018 album “Us.” Though the crowd was obviously mostly there for Maggie Rogers, there was an enchanting appeal to Empress Of and I’ll be sure to check her out more in the future.
Rogers took the stage at exactly 7 p.m. She strutted out on stage amidst a chaotic yet soothing instrumental, adorned in a white flowing robe with a white top and silky white high-waisted bell-bottoms. She quickly jumped into “Color Song,” a cut off from her 2017 EP, and the crowd was instantly entranced.
She made her way into the slower “Fallingwater,” and the crowd seemed to collectively take a deep breath as they took in her angelic presence on stage and the illuminated skyline of the city in the distance. The temperature dropped ever so slightly so that I was comfy in my sweater and wasn’t hot from dancing around, which is exactly how I wish every concert was ever.
Rogers continued on, performing almost all of the songs from her discography, only omitting “Better” from her 2017 EP. Highlights included “The Knife,” “Dog Years” and “Overnight.” “Overnight” was a song I didn’t truly appreciate until seeing it live and it may now be my favorite Rogers track. It’s a melodically upbeat but lyrically poignant and heart-breaking song chronicling the collapse of a relationship. But, you know, one you can dance to.
The crowd was deeply invested in every word and lyric that came out of Rogers’ mouth. Though it was chilly, people were moving around a good bit but still mostly taking in the music and singing along to Rogers’ unique voice.
She wrapped up the night by saying that she knew it was cold and she didn’t want to pretend to go offstage and come back on to perform “Alaska,” so she would just do it. Before starting the song, however, she took a moment to really talk to the crowd for the first time. She recounted her early experiences playing in Philly when almost no one knew her and declared that the city has a special place in her heart. She also revealed that though the typical cap is 4,500 people for the Mann, they continued to sell tickets through the fire code limit and still sold out 7,500 tickets. As she talked, she got emotional and extended a sincere thank you and love for everyone for supporting her work. Most artists do this at shows but every once in a while you can tell that they really do mean it, and this was one of those times. Rogers’ sweet and kind demeanor said everything as she moved into a stripped, acoustic rendition of “Alaska”
“I’m gonna play this one the way I wrote it,” Rogers said.
The slower rendition was a beautiful send-off to a beautiful show and was cemented by love of Maggie Rogers as an artist. I can’t wait to see what she does next and see her perform it again in this city.