By Charlotte Lai
‘This is a song about my horrible, horrible taste in men!’ Maisie Peters exclaims before launching into a thumping performance of Not Another Rockstar. Yet Peters’ show is about so much more than that. The Good Witch, embarking upon her first headlining tour, has brewed up a concoction of heartbreak and hope, insecurity and exuberance – infinitely earnest and unapologetically blonde, Peters has the audience under her spell. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves – let’s start at the beginning.
Peters began her career in 2016 aged 15, gaining traction in indie-pop circles before being signed to Atlantic Records in 2018 and subsequently releasing two EPs, as well as providing the soundtrack to the Apple TV original series Trying. In 2021, Peters left the label and signed with Ed Sheeran’s Gingerbread Man Records, releasing her first full-length album You Signed Up for This and joining Sheeran’s worldwide tour as an opening act. As someone who watched her very first YouTube videos in 2017 – fresh-faced and sub-a hundred likes – Peters’ success feels oddly near-and-dear. Her songs have been my soundtrack to new love and heartbreak, late-night singalongs and lazy summer days – so when she announced a tour date in Oxford, I pounced.
And – very unfortunately – failed to get tickets (despite increasingly frantic Ticketmaster antics during a lecture). Cherwell was my saviour and my lifeline – I was able to nab a guest spot to the concert in exchange for canvassing fans queueing to enter the venue. The line wound twice around the O2, with a palpable air of excitement (and a considerable amount of blonde box dye). The most common answer to asking fans what song they were most excited for was – unsurprisingly – Blonde, with a smattering of Psycho, Cate’s Brother, and the occasional deep-cut favourites Elvis Song and Glowing Review. Walking into the packed venue, I wasn’t sure who the opening act would be – only to find out (through increasingly anticipatory mutters in the crowd) that it was Cate Canning. Maisie Peters’ best friend, wrote-Cate’s-Brother-after-her-brother Cate Canning. Her appearance was greeted by an exuberant crowd, and when Peters finally appeared – confident, platinum blonde, wielding an acoustic guitar – the crowd went psycho (see what I did there?)
The set started off with Body Better, which Peters describes as ‘one of the most honest songs (she’s) ever released, and definitely the most personal.’ Despite it being a recently released single (one of what Peters has nicknamed the ‘Trauma Trio’), the audience chanted along to every word. Her introspective lyricism about ‘the ugly things you think to yourself in the aftermath (of a breakup)’ is juxtaposed by Peters’ signature brand of upbeat, infinitely catchy dance-pop, driven by a thumping bassline and punchy synths. Peters then effortlessly transitions into I’m Trying (Not Friends), a fast-paced, lyrically dynamic song about not being able to stay friends with an ex. The crowd (including me, of course) screams along to the chorus: ‘well I might be bitter and twisted and broken and petty and lying/but at least I’m trying.’ Peters commands the stage, larger than life (and her 5’2 frame) – at least she’s trying, and I can categorically state that she’s succeeded.
Her selection of songs included most of You Signed Up for This. Elvis Song, introduced by Peters as ‘a song I don’t perform often’, but included on the setlist as a ‘love song – and final goodbye – to You Signed Up for This’, garnered a particularly enthusiastic response. The lines ‘you were always on my mind/I was yours and you were mine’ felt particularly poignant in light of the fact that Peters wrote her upcoming album The Good Witch as catharsis for a failed relationship. Throughout the set, Peters’ vocals danced effortlessly between buoyant and uniquely vulnerable, cutting through the introspection of Brooklyn and Villain as well as the made-for-radio Psycho. Canning made a surprise appearance for a joint rendition of Cate’s Brother (albeit with modified lyrics – I’m not sure Cate feels quite the same way about her brother). The audience, whilst initially taken aback by the changed lyrics, recovered quickly, and chanted along to the fan favourite – Peters’ chemistry with Canning, owed to a decade-long friendship and (in her words) ‘separation anxiety’, is clear to see.
Showcasing her signature emotional honesty (and how similar she is to her listening demographic), Peters included a mashup of her most personal songs in the middle of the set, consisting of Glowing Review, Volcano, Good Enough, Favourite Ex, and a cover of Taylor Swift’s Dear John. Her performance felt like an interlude – a final goodbye to acoustic covers on YouTube and indie-pop laments, and a hello to an era that she describes as ‘much more sonically varied than anything I’ve done before.’
True to that promise, Peters follows the medley with Not Another Rockstar, a driving, pop-punk track. She emerges from smoke machines and spotlights with a cocksure strut and supreme ease, snarling along to ‘the law pulls up and you won’t get in the car/and I’m like, “oh, goddamn, not another rockstar”’. The high-energy track is infused with quick-witted vocals and an unapologetic liberation from players and narcissists – the rose-tinted glasses are unequivocally and undeniably off for good. The red flags are revealed for exactly what they are. Themes of self-love and self-respect are central to her closing tracks, Lost the Breakup and Blonde – the realisation that ‘oh shit, you lost the breakup’ and ‘remember how you screwed up when I was a brunette/I don’t think you knew just what you done’ is evident and screamed along to by the crowd.
Peters has emerged from the shadows of ‘Ed Sheeran’s opening act’ to become a fully-fledged pop star in her own right. It takes a powerful vulnerability – and a unique talent – to straddle the boundaries between teenage heartbreak and personal growth. These themes are frequently denigrated by the disdainful, ‘ugh-more-of-that-girly-girl-shit’ factions of the music scene. Especially with her upcoming release of The Good Witch, Peters is so much more than that. A talented lyrical storyteller with a knack for writing undeniable earworms, Peters’ repertoire is jam-packed with arena ready singalongs. Wickedly witty, rip-roaring pop-punk and heart-rendingly sensitive ballads alike, Peters has undeniably come into her own. With the crowd singing along (and, undoubtedly, relating to) every one of her lyrics, her show was a triumphant success, and (I imagine) both therapeutic and exhilarating for Peters herself.
‘You asked what I tell my friends/said “it’s a glowing review”’ – Peters has certainly been prophetic. Next on my list – to fuck your life up as a blonde.
Is That an Angel? No, it’s Maisie Peters – Tour Review
Charlotte Lai reviews Maisie Peters' recent show at the Oxford O2.
By Charlotte Lai
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