Maggie Rogers exemplifies the dream-come-true star. Hailing from the Eastern Shore of Maryland, she grew up playing banjo and started writing songs in eighth grade. She went to NYU’s Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, and in 2016, she wrote “Alaska” in 15 minutes for a homework assignment. Pharrell Williams ended up being a surprise guest that day, and it was a random happenstance that he heard her song. But he loved it, a video of the interaction went viral and Rogers got a record deal. “Alaska” made it onto her 2019 album “Heard It in a Past Life,” and four years later, she’s now touring her 2022 album “Surrender.”
Rogers kicked off The Feral Joy Tour in Boston with a sold-out three-night run at Roadrunner, a huge accomplishment and one that demonstrates how far Rogers has come. Opener Del Water Gap set the tone for what was a truly electrifying show with his energy, passion and talent. Samuel Holden Jaffe, the artist behind the solo project Del Water Gap, makes music that in sound tends to be upbeat but in lyrics is full of yearning and heartbreak — à la Theo Katzman’s “Heartbreak Hits” (2017). Jaffe led with “Hurting Kind” before moving into “Sorry I Am,” “Better Than I Know Myself” and later “I Hope You Understand,” all from his 2021 self-titled LP. He played his Spotify Singles cover of Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated” (2022) and a song called “Losing You” from his forthcoming album, which he announced would be released this summer. Ending on “Ode to a Conversation Stuck in Your Throat” (2020), he thanked the crowd for listening and “for knowing my music.”
Jaffe’s presence at the show and on the tour is especially meaningful because Rogers got her start as a member of Del Water Gap before the two decided to pursue their own independent work. They have remained close, and Jaffe proclaimed about halfway through his set that “none of you are bigger Maggie Rogers fans than I am.”
When Rogers took the stage, she was wearing a navy sequin mini dress and knee-high boots. She jumped right into her first song, “Overdrive,” which is also the first track on her album “Surrender.” She played “Want Want” before greeting the crowd and then a jazzed-up version of “Say It,” from “Heard It in a Past Life.”
After a quick run offstage, she returned laughing, as she explained that she needed to add more tape to her outfit. “I love glitter,” she said, “but I’m making this dress work on the fly.” This offhand, casual and comfortable way of addressing the audience encompassed the feeling of the whole show. It felt like we were a bunch of friends in a room singing and dancing together. Rogers herself did a lot of dancing and running around the stage, clearly having fun while also exemplifying what it means to be an engaging performer.
Rogers played “Honey” before noting how fitting it is that her tour is starting in Boston. “I cannot imagine a more perfect place in the world to start this tour,” she said, sharing that she had turned in “Honey” for a homework assignment this time last year. In between two spectacular albums, Rogers found the time to go to graduate school, pursuing a master’s degree in religion and public life at Harvard Divinity School. She wrote her thesis, titled “Surrender: Cultural Consciousness, the Spirituality of Public Gatherings & the Ethics of Power in Pop Culture,” in tandem with her album “Surrender.”
She played “Love You For a Long Time,” a single released in between the two albums, and then “Shatter,” one of the angrier tracks off her second album. She announced to the crowd that she needed a minute to calm down before the next song “because I’m mad.” But she explained that that feeling is the idea behind the name of the tour, feral joy: “There’s no joy without anger.”
Rogers brought Jaffe back out to play one of the songs they wrote together when they were in Del Water Gap called “New Song,” which was released on a 2020 compilation album by Rogers called “Notes from the Archive: Recordings 2011-2016” and included songs written and recorded before her breakthrough hit “Alaska.”
“A little over 10 years ago I moved to New York to play music, and I was in a band called Del Water Gap,” she started. The crowd began cheering immediately, many of them knowing what was coming; at a Del Water Gap show at the Sinclair last October, Jaffe brought Rogers out to play “New Song” with him. “This is the last song we wrote when we were in a band,” Rogers continued. “We were 18.”
Rogers swapped her guitar for a banjo, and together she and Jaffe sang a beautiful rendition of the slow, heart-wrenching song.
Rogers then went back to her first album with “Alaska” and “The Knife.” She performed “Alaska” with a particularly ethereal quality that can be only described as supremely shimmery. The beauty of “Horses,” a song that uses the titular animals to convey Rogers’ desire to run free, came through perfectly live, and her performance of “Anywhere With You,” the perfect scream-sing track from “Surrender,” was top-notch. She ended with “Light On” (2018) and “That’s Where I Am,” introduced her band and headed offstage before being called back on for an encore.
In a set that lasted nearly two hours, Rogers took fans through almost her entire discography: the sad, slow tracks; the upbeat, dance-around ones; the impassioned stompers; and the ones that show her growth between the first and second albums. But the feeling that ran through the performance, that tied all these sometimes-disparate songs together, was that Rogers was having so much fun. With energy, vigor, zeal and a truly feral joy, she gave the audience the sense that she was extremely comfortable up there, just doing her thing — almost like she was dancing alone in her bedroom, and we were lucky enough to steal a peek.