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  • Maggie Cocco's Science for Sociopaths - Gig Review: Maggie Cocco @ Lopdell Theatre, Tititrangi - 22/11/2023

Maggie Cocco's Science for Sociopaths - Gig Review: Maggie Cocco @ Lopdell Theatre, Tititrangi - 22/11/2023

27 Nov 2023 // A review by Shade

Whatever came out of the pandemic, it stranded some amazing talent here long enough for them to enrich our musical world. Down into the Lopdell labyrinth, a buzz of age-spanning expectancy waited for two of these: Maggie Cocco and her accompanist for the tour Bonnie Schwarz who would add much more than just ‘sad cello’ to tonight’s epic cycle of piano songs. Word is spreading. Originally opera trained and with experience singing with the famous and should-be-famous, Maggie Cocco of the incredible voice has taken to the roads of NZ to broadcast her music, and nothing daunts her.

The gig kicks off with a full explanation of the logic of the song-cycle, Like A Moth, and project, ‘Science for Sociopaths’, delivered with a natural fluency that only Americans and the Irish seem to possess. Directly taking us into the musicality of winding vocal lines, developing harmonics of piano chords and deep cello bass, we feel the promised emotionality is on the line, vulnerable and assertive at the same time. A little scary maybe. If we have to make vocal comparisons it would be a cross between Nora Jones and early Bonnie Raitt, sometimes hinting at the most soulful side of Dolly Parton, if she had come out of Detroit. Moving through the set, the cello paints its glissando on the sweeping piano-vocals of the ever-catchy I See You, diving to submarine depths and adding an edge of menace to the song’s evocative lyric. The singer’s ‘bones are rattling with doubt’ and her classic soulful vocals are drawing us into a complex emotional world.

With her back to the crowd for most of the gig, we see that Maggie has large devil-wing tattoos. Something of the past is on her back. The exorcism taking place may be partly coming through the true romance of her new life here, but mostly tonight it is happening in the catharsis of this deeply moving cycle of songs.

For me, the emotive core of the cycle runs with power lines and delicate subtlety from the magnificent songwork of Down, Down, Down that works its hypnotic 6/8 time melodies into the heart, through the harmonies of Hearts At Ease, perfectly complemented by Bonnie’s swooping cello and into double voicing, moving from tiny to vast harmonic swells. This rides us along tracks reminiscent of early Cher, calling up powers from deep places into the hauntingly dark and splendid lines of In Another World We’re Fine. This reminds us, ‘It was enough that you were mine.’ So much loss and then so much gained. This is what music is for.

In the second half , classic folky oddness comes from Bonnie’s songs, sung to her ingeniously arpeggiated cello, where again their vocals sit together like family and where classically trained accuracy and self-assurance matters more than the tuning of a guitar. In a world of small squeaky voices and competitive victimhood, it’s magnificent to see two powerful female musicians heading so confidently to the top of their game. These women could sing the clauses of land law contracts and their harmonies would spin them into poetry. The best of New Zealand’s gloriously unvetted music shines in Titirangi tonight. If you weren’t there, be there next time.

Bonnie is touring NZ with her stunning folk-classical duo Good Habits. Catch them if you can. And make sure to catch the amazing Maggie Cocco at any opportunity for a massive musical treat. Pre-sales of Maggie’s analogue album Like a Moth are available for vinyl and CD at www.diggersfactory.com

Review by W.I. Angus
Photo Credit: Micky Nogher


About Maggie Cocco's Science for Sociopaths

Hailing from metro Detroit, Maggie Cocco’s dedication to exploring the depth, breadth, and profundity of music has seen her perform in stadiums with legacy artists, galleries with Avant Garde expressionists, and many people, places, and musics between. Driven by a commitment to her global community, Maggie Cocco Music offers patron subsidized Pay What You Can services and contributions to various arts and social justice movements and organizations, weaving her passions into the fabric of her work. An independent artist, Cocco is based in Northland, New Zealand where she composes and runs community music programming between tours.

At the recent heart of Maggie's output, Science for Sociopaths is an evocative theatrical art pop project delving deep into themes of systemic and interpersonal trauma wounds and connection. Like A Moth is the first of two meticulously crafted song cycles that follow our heroine through the course of one or more tumultuous relationships (depending on how you listen). An accompanying booklet features artworks created at Science for Sociopaths shows from 2020-2023 where live performances often morphed into improvised multimedia experiments featuring local artists and audience participation. Partnership with Anzac Road Analog Recording in Whangarei, New Zealand in 2022 resulted in an 18 month journey to capture the essence of these unique performances. Joined by acclaimed cellist Bonnie Schwarz [UK] on cello, the duo perform Cocco’s songs, interlinked by key relationships, motif, and story, with nuance and sensitivity.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Maggie Cocco's Science for Sociopaths


Year: 2018
Type: EP
Year: 2018
Type: EP

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