o2 Academy, Bristol - 01/11/2023
Almost every week, I’ve been dragging my flatmate along to a gig, usually because he’s already into the music, sometimes because I think it’ll be his vibe (and also because I’d rather not go alone). Most of the time, these gigs are the rising “pop girlies” - one week we saw Baby Queen's record store show, the week after we saw Cate (note Peters’s song, Cate’s Brother) play the Exchange. And on the walk back to our flat every single week without fail, he rants to me about how due to the demographics of these crowds mostly being teenage girls, he always just looks like a reluctant boyfriend when in reality, he’s probably more of a fan of these artists than I am.
Tonight (01/11/23), Maisie Peters is in town, playing her second sold-out night at Bristol’s o2 Academy. Fans had been queueing outside the venue since early that morning, desperate to get as close to the stage as possible, despite this venue being arguably one of the city’s best for being able to see no matter your position in the crowd (note, the academy has also since added screens either side of the stage to ensure all the action can be seen, albeit a go-pro recording from a fixed spot). We join the queue just under an hour before doors and participate in an embarrassingly (on our part) bad lyric quiz with the Academy’s Angels in a bid to win some queue snacks (they were very kind and let us win a prize anyway). Once we make it inside, we find ourselves fourth row and in the centre of the standing area, ecstatic for an evening of feel-good pop perfection.
It’s fair to say that Peters’s set is not a safe place for reluctant boyfriends tonight. There’s a point where she mentions she can see that there are a few boyfriends in the crowd tonight and urges everyone to give those in the room in relationships a round of applause, and the majority of the songs on the setlist tonight (of equal weighting across her two albums, 2021’s You Signed Up For This, and more recent sophomore record, The Good Witch) deal with heartbreak, coming of age, and those who wrong us (mostly aimed towards men). Basically, the reluctant boyfriends don’t have the greatest of reputations in the room tonight…
The stage is set with inflatable clouds helping to create an immersive, split-level stage, the three band members on a raised platform, and Peters downstage, below, and lettering along the back spelling out “The Good Witch”. Peters comes onstage at 9pm with a teased recording of the eponymous track playing beforehand. She bounds onstage, enthusiastically asking Bristol if they’re ready for the best night of their life (to which frenzied screams commence) before kicking off the evening with the bass-centred pop track Coming Of Age, sparking the instant singing-along to every single note (even backing vocals) from the adolescent audience.
Much of the same follows. Lead single, Body Better, is an infectious pop song which sees Peters take a break from running lengths of the stage and stop in the centre with an acoustic guitar, before playing the emotionally charged, predominantly acoustic centred Love Him I Don’t. You Signed Up For This track, and song that Peters explains as having started a lot of this for her, John Hughes Movie, is a song that not only gets the crowd moving again, but marks the singer’s transition from sad acoustic singer-songwriter to main pop girly. She explains that after parties where she’d spend most of the time watching the boys she had crushes on rather than talking to them, she’d “go home and I’d write these songs, about all these boys I had crushes on, and I honestly, I’m not gonna lie, I can’t really remember any of the boys now, but I’ll definitely remember this song and I’ll definitely remember you guys forever.” A glitter ball descends from the ceiling as the glistening angst of the track kicks in.
She’s armed with an acoustic guitar for the moments following this upbeat pop number, softly singing the first half of the delicate melody of Two Weeks Ago. Following this, she transitions into the first verse and chorus of early single, Worst Of You, before switching into a surprise cover of One Direction hit, Night Changes. The medley concludes with half of debut album title track, You Signed Up For This, and whilst it’s a fun addition to the set, it all feels very clunky and easily could’ve had the same crowd satisfaction had she just sung a couple of these tracks in their entirety.
Tracks such as Yoko (Misunderstood The Beatles), released merely a week ago as part of the deluxe edition of her sophomore effort (and sung with passion and without mistake), and Wendy are real stand-out, empowering moments in the setlist shining a light on the women in pop culture whose importance and influence is very often overlooked. Similarly, The Band And I, is a poignant number with impeccable lyrical storytelling reminiscing Peters’s tour around America with her band. Usually when you go and see a solo performer, their backing band are overlooked and regarded only as session musicians. Therefore, it’s so refreshing to see Peters celebrating her band members and them being wholly included in the whole “Maisie Peters” package, with her not only writing a song all about them and their importance in her journey as a musician, but also taking the time to introduce every one in full beforehand. “If we’re living the dream/I hope we never wake up” the song concludes.
We’re led into the encore with TikTok hit, Cate’s Brother, where keyboardist, Tina, joins Maisie on the stage below for a choreographed routine. Maisie exits the stage, followed by her band members, as a chant for “one more song” endures. Peters arrived back onstage, this time joined by tonight’s support act, Gretta Ray, and the pair perform a duet of Peters’s track, History Of Man, a stripped-back track performed with impressive vocal control from both artists. The night closes on single, Lost The Break-up, a pop tour-de-force, leaving the crowd on a high from the exhilarating empowerment. Screaming the lyrics (notably “Oh shit! You lost the break-up”) was such a cathartic experience, leaving it crystal clear why Maisie Peters has reached such highs in her career in a short space of time.
So we begin our walk home in the rain. Predictably, my flatmate goes over his usual rant before we dissect every moment on the set that we’ve just witnessed. Even if we can’t agree on the perceived demographics of the show, there’s one thing we can; Maisie Peters is set to become one of the most promising pop acts of our generation. Tonight really felt like the final victory lap for this chapter, and her show at Wembley Arena at the end of the week feels like it will be the start of something even bigger.
Maisie Peters's second album, The Good Witch, is out now.