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Live Review: Maggie Rogers, Stella Donnelly

31 May 2019 | 11:17 am | Lauren Baxter

"The art of vulnerability."

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Letting go is a difficult concept. There are few moments in life where we can truly release the shackles of mundanity in order to do so. It’s something Maggie Rogers has learnt through the power of music. The practice of finding comfort in your emotions rather than shying away from them. The art of vulnerability. That glorious, hip-shaking kind of vulnerability that is rooted in the joy of dancing yourself clean to a foot-stomping beat. Something she shares with us tonight. 

First though Stella Donnelly is up on stage, guitar in hand, bassist Jennifer Aslett in tow. The songs are stripped back live, candid vulnerability on display in a different way. With Welsh accents and vibrator tales, Donnelly exudes an easy charm that extends to her playing. Moreover, this is important storytelling. A voice that seems vital in the Australian music landscape; one that cuts through the noise.

Stella Donnelly @ The Tivoli. Photo by Bianca Holderness.

Maggie Rogers’ band make their way onto the stage, all grooving along to ABBA’s Dancing Queen. It’s an appropriate choice, Rogers barely stands still from the moment she makes her entrance.

Her first time in Brisbane, the set flows like a river, from the opening rapids of Give A Little and Burning, to the quiet storm of Past Life and Overnight. It’s emotional whiplash, something she too comments on; we’re covering the full spectrum tonight. Forget Maggie’s Farm, it’s Maggie’s world and we’re just living in it.

Every time she stops to speak to the crowd, her words are drowned out by whoops and “I love you Maggie”s. There’s a moment about ten seconds into The Knife where she has to stop and share what’s on her mind, unable to continue singing until she is “present”: “This is the most amount of phones I have ever seen at a gig.” And while she admits it’s cool to share these things, it’s clear she’s seeking a real audience connection. 

Still, there’s something quite special about the way these songs are brought to life in front of an audience. The arrangements are fuller, heavier, more viscous, as if feeding off the hearts and souls of those in attendance. 2016’s Dog Years is dedicated to her new friend Stella Donnelly and shows the strength of Rogers’ early songwriting. We didn’t need a famous man in a hat to tell us that.  

Maggie Rogers @ The Tivoli. Photo by Bianca Holderness.

The viral Alaska, which propelled her into the internet’s collective consciousness, comes, of course, but it is unassuming and seems almost like a box tick. Somewhat poetically, control is restored with Back In My Body before the set ends with the powerful Fallingwater.   

Back solo for a brief encore, we bask in the comedown together, Rogers engaging the power of quiet to deliver an a capella rendition of Color Song. It’s a moment of collective exhale and we leave The Tivoli calm and at peace.