SANTA ANA — As Maggie Rogers took the stage at the Observatory in Orange County, “Dancing Queen” blared in the background, a fitting song for the entrance of Maryland’s dancing queen. Maggie Rogers embodied the Abba track all night, shining even brighter than the glittery cape she donned. Touring in advance of her forthcoming album, Heard it in a Past Life, Rogers played familiar songs along with unreleased cuts from the new record.
She opened with an early cut, the propulsive “On + Off,” one of Rogers’ most hard-hitting dance tracks. From the get-go, she jumped, danced and twirled across the stage.
Rogers kept the pace moving with “Split Stones,” a folk-tinged dance-pop ballad. Breathy background vocals complemented her sound, creating an undeniably moody atmosphere. Rogers’ vocals were equally impressive here, never faltering despite her constant and chaotic movement.
Maggie Rogers transitioned to an unreleased song called “Burning” by asking, “Is anyone in love? I am so in love right now and this is a song about it.” Her giddiness was infectious. A guitar solo closed out the track, highlighting her strong band.
In a little more than a year, Rogers has gone from an unknown music student at New York University to one of the most exciting names in pop.
“Two years ago my life changed very quickly with a video. This record tells the story of this crazy change and how great it was and how wildly overwhelmed I was,” she said before launching into another new track.
A highlight from the new crop of songs was “Retrograde.” A droning beat opened the song and gave way to some of the most powerful vocals of the night. Rogers effortlessly slipped in and out of her falsetto, helping the song build to a climactic finish.
Though the show was, at most time, good fun, Rogers did take a break from the dancing several times to get real.
“The world is stressing me out so much right now and the only way to make me feel better is to come here on stage and spend time with you,” she said at one point. A gorgeous solo rendition of “Color Song” followed.
The biggest surprised of the night came when Maggie Rogers covered “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”She closed the performance with breakout hit “Alaska,” the song that introduced the world to her unique blend of folk and organic pop.
Australian singer-songwriter Grace Shaw, better known as Mallrat, opened the night and proved to be the perfect complement to Rogers’ sound. The 19-year-old began with “Tokyo Drift,” a track that shows her many different musical styles. EDM, rap and pop influences all manifested, creating a bouncy dance track for Shaw to glide over.
Shaw showed a youthful exuberance as she danced around the stage, saying, “Feel free to dance and jump around, my job is to get you warmed up!” On “Texas,” a booming and reverberating beat complemented Shaw’s vocals.
Most impressive was Mallrat’s performance of “Groceries,” off of her latest EP, In the Sky. The song perfectly encapsulated Shaw’s playful spirit, blending fun and humorous lyrics with a catchy dance groove.
Follow writer Matthew Eaton at Twitter.com/MattnSoCal.