Maggie Szabo Ups Her Game at the Hotel Cafe

Maggie Szabo Ups Her Game at the Hotel Cafe

Patrick  O’Heffernan

Maggie Szabo

With her brilliant smile, athletic body  and mischievous eyes, the diminutive Maggie Szabo put on a show Friday night at LA’s premier showcase club this Friday that topped even her high-energy performance  record.  Nobody sat still as she rocked  through  11 songs – mostly new material including the new, soon-to-be-a-hit “Paralyze”,  along with favorites like “Sweetest  Heartache” and the solid pop-anthem, “Slow Fire”.

Having seen her live four times,  I  could tell that there has been both a creative burst and a lot of hard work in her career since I started following her about a year ago. New songs  blended smoothly with her audience’s established favorites, making the evening  seem like a  party  with old  friends;  there were no dissonant  notes, no “where is Maggie going?”, questions.  It  just all worked.  Even when she took to the old  upright piano in far stage left and shifted mood for “Touch the Ground” and “Take Your Time”,  she was  on  target both as a singer and as  a performer. Plus she gave a preview of some of  the new songs on an EP  she is now wrapping up a new EP, Truth.

It was the performer side of Maggie  that really seems  to have grown.  A consummate  relationship builder online, with tens of thousands of Facebook and twitter  followers, Maggie has always been able to transfer that likeability to her performances – a skill I marveled at last February  when I attended her album release  party on the same stage.  But this Friday night she brought a  new confidence and a new capacity to connect personally with individual  fans  – the way Bill  Clinton does  in a crowd.  She was singing to you, personally.

A Canadian-born,  Nashville-trained soul-pop singer with ferocious energy packed into a compact, constantly moving frame, Maggie  has moved from an online hit wonder to full-blown top writing, singing and touring performer.  In the short time she has been in LA, I have watched her tighten her song-writing, elevate her command of the stage, and pull her current band – Steven Shook, Sam Campbell, Frank Grande, Sonny Kennelly, Aaron Aiken, Chantel McCrary together into a well-oiled and joyfully focused machine.

Stepping up to her trademark pink mic stand and microphone, dressed in formal short black dress with a bare  midriff that let the rhinestone in her belly button flash as she moved, Maggie was  confident and energized.  She kicked off the evening with a new song, “Tragedy”, telling  the song’s recipient of her attitude, Cuz I’d be the one who would make you feel/Like a million dollars every day of the week while letting us know she would make us feel  like a million dollars that night.

 httpv://youtu.be/EoQ7eSmiXX0

And she did,  introducing us to the new song, “Paralyze” and then up-shifting even more to her full-tilt dance cut,  “Slow Fire”.  The room bounced  and swayed as she told us Baby, we can burn all night–  and we were ready to do just that.  As she moved through the set list, including the two  songs with her at the piano and back to the band with “One Sided”,   her command of the performance and the audience expanded, like the lens on  a spotlight opening up to illuminate a growing circle.  When she gave the band a downbeat and launched into the pop-constructed “Sweetest Heartache” with  its ultimately singable hooks, people  in the back of the room couldn’t  restrain themselves and started dancing, clearing a tiny  space  in the standing crowd.

“Relapse” and “Forgive and forget”  kept  the energy up.  Maggie finished on the highest note  in repertory, her  hit single “Tidal  Waves and Hurricanes”.  It was over too soon.

Early on in the performance Maggie told us that the Hotel  Café is her favorite venue in LA and she rocks it wonderfully. But  I would love to see her in a larger space, either solo or opening for a national  act where she could bring in her legions of fans and give them room to dance. Her pop  constructions can easily cross from iPod Playlists sand Pandora  downloads to into  room-filling anthem/dance music  A larger space as a solo or big tour warm up act would also give her the freedom to lengthen her songs from radio-ready 2 to 3 minutes to concert length, 5 – 7  minute cuts.  She has the energy and the material – “Slow Fire” and “Tidal Waves and Hurricanes”, for instance – and her current band  could easily kick it up even more with drum and guitar solos.  But  most importantly, Maggie has  the authority on stage to translate to a larger venue  and a growing audience. She deserves it and so do we.

 

Patrick O’Heffernan. Host, MusicFridayLive!

 

Maggie Szabo

Allaboutmaggie.com

Hotel Café, Hollywood CA

 

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