Maisie Peters at the Phoenix Concert Theatre

Maisie Peters at the Phoenix Concert Theatre

Photo credit: Aesthetic Magazine

Watching a small artist get big

Claudia Doyle, Arts Editor

The first time that I heard the bridge of “I’m Trying (Not Friends)” by Maisie Peters, I knew that it would instantly become a fan favourite. At her Toronto show on the I’m Telling the Whole of America Tour, the audience screamed it word for word with an enthusiasm that proved Peters’ career is really taking off. Her fans quickly sold out the Phoenix Concert Theatre, a nightclub small enough to make any event feel intimate, but also large enough to draw an animated crowd. The next time she is in Toronto, I predict she will need an even bigger venue. 

The highlight of the show was getting to hear Maisie’s rendition of our national anthem, performed for the very first time in Canada. I am of course referring to “Cate’s Brother,” a fictionalized song Peters wrote about her friend’s brother who lives in British Columbia (and who she has never met). When she sang the lyrics, “You said, ‘Get a flight to Canada and you can meet my mother,” we screamed “CANADA” as loudly as we had sung the iconic bridge of “I’m Trying (Not Friends).” It was a nice reminder that Peters, a British pop star, is growing a strong international fanbase. 

The rest of the setlist was equally spectacular. Peters put together a mashup of her slower songs because she has too many sad hits than can be performed in a one-hour show. Her lyrical style is very well suited to writing emotionally vulnerable lyrics, so this mashup was a beautiful collage of a lot of hard-hitting lines. The medley ended with a short cover of “Dear John,” which was a clever choice because her fanbase interlaps with Taylor Swift’s. I learned this fact as we waited for the concert to start by listening to the pre-show playlist. The playlist featured the songs “Mr. Perfectly Fine,” “Anti-Hero,” and “Holy Ground,” and the audience sang along to each of them enthusiastically.

In my mother’s words, Maisie Peters is “like Taylor Swift, but with more of an edge.” Like in the case of Swift, Peters success can largely be attributed to her clever, cathartic lyrics. Both artists make music that is brutally honest and shamelessly catchy. The “edge” refers to Peters’ rockstar potential, which has really been shining through in her most recent songs (“Not Another Rockstar” is a pretty literal example). Comparing these two artists begs the question: is Peters on her way to reaching Swift’s level of fame and recognition?  

I first came across Maisie Peters four years ago through my “Discover Weekly” playlist on Spotify. This feature on the app has helped me discover many hidden gems in the music industry, and it’s always exciting to watch as small artists gain more and more attention on streaming platforms. But streams aren’t the only thing working in Peters’ favour. This year, she was an opening act for Ed Sheeran on his international tour, and I would not be surprised if she ends up opening for Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour when it comes to Europe. This kind of exposure could have a huge impact on the success of her upcoming album. 

At her Toronto show, Peters proved that she has the talent and drive to become a huge pop star. But I must admit, there is something very special about attending shows at smaller venues where everyone in the audience feels like they are in on a hidden secret. Watching an artist grow can be bittersweet. The next time I see her, Maisie Peters may look like a tiny ant in a giant stadium, instead of a real person standing a few feet away from me. My experience at her show reminded me to enjoy the early years of an artist’s career — they may just be their best. Nevertheless, I am excited to see where her music takes her next.