Grace Vanderwaal won over America’s heart during her first audition on the wildly popular talent show America’s Got Talent (AGT) in 2016. Her song, “I Don’t Know My Name” resonated with many wandering souls seeking self-confidence. A song like this can easily be written by an older musician but the fact that this kind of self-awareness and wisdom came from a happy-go-lucky middle schooler left listeners everywhere with their jaws on the floor.
Two years after the completion of AGT, Grace has come to Seattle, Washington to close out her Just The Beginning debut tour at The Neumos on February 23rd, 2018. I approached the venue at about five-o’clock, one hour before doors were set to open. Despite the onslaught of snow and rain, the line already extended around the block. Young girls, no older than Grace, ran up and down the sidewalk with friends they had met in line while parents gripped their Starbucks’ cups for a bit of warmth and made small talk about the good old days of when their parents dropped them off at venues and picked them up a few hours later. I must admit, seeing the demographics going into this event made me feel like I was going to a Wiggles concert more than a pop concert.
Unlike most shows, the doors opened when they were scheduled to. Within minutes we were all inside the romantically decorated venue, waiting for Grace to take the stage. Long burgundy curtains hung as the backdrop of the stage making the whole room feel more like a casual jam session between artists than a concert with an intimate, but, rather sizable crowd. Grace traded in large spotlights for low-hanging twinkle lights that reached from the instruments in the back to the first few rows of the crowd. The floor of the stage was covered in ornate tassel rugs which I think were used by Grace’s request because she loves to perform barefoot. I ordinarily wouldn’t comment on what it is like to wait for a concert because usually, it entails the same thing: finding a spot, being pushed by people trying to get to the front, and getting to the front yourself. Compared to others, this was a laid back and relaxed audience. Kids waited quietly, taking in the surroundings of their first concert while others tugged at their parents to put them on their shoulders
When the called start time arrived the stage began to emit fog and the crowd started to chant and cheer for Grace. Lo and behold, she appeared immediately! Grace opened with one of her hit singles, “Moonlight”. Despite the mic not working at first, she did not skip a beat. She danced and twirled across the stage playing her ukulele in classic Grace style like a true performer. At first, her energy was much higher than the crowd ’s, which, for lack of a better word, made things awkward. The parents were not terribly animated and the younger crowd members were simply too starstruck to make a sound. However, this quickly turned into a faint memory when her mic started working and she could sing out to the room. By the end of her third song the crowd had warmed up and any awkwardness was long forgotten. After her song “Clay” she stopped to talk to the crowd. She noticed a girl in the crowd with glitter in her hair and reminisced on how earlier in the tour she used to wear “loose sparkles” in her hair but had to stop because waking up to in a tour bus covered in glitter every day was becoming a bit too much.
She added that she loved when “the crowd is young” because it makes it “funner”. Grace is America’s quirky-sweetheart and we can only hope she stays away from corporate music production and remains green like this forever.
Grace Vanderwaal is a gem in various ways and what makes her an even better artist is that she sounds exactly how she does on her tracks, if not better when she sings live. The raspiness of her voice is a trademark of hers and makes her a unique singer. Throughout her show, her voice never faltered and there wasn’t a note she couldn’t hit. Even through the headbanging and jumping up and down onstage, she sounded flawless in every word she sang.
Grace is quickly becoming an international superstar but she is still very much a cooky 14-year-old. Because this was her very last show on tour, it had to be a special one. Partway through the show her older sister, Olivia, appeared on stage with Grace’s stage manager to present her with a cake for completing her first tour. Grace was completely taken aback by this gesture and was left speechless until her sister set down the cake, gave her a hug, and grabbed a mic. Olivia started belting out the words to Spongebob’s “Gary Come Home” and Grace quickly joined in. The two gleefully danced around and sang on stage while the kids joined in and the parents stood there looking a little confused. Grace followed this impromptu performance by asking the crowd if anyone was from “the 70s”. The adults in the room began to chuckle and cheer.
Grace debuted her new song (coming in April!) to the crowd called “Clearly”. The song is based on Johnny Nash’s hit, “I Can See Clearly Now” and has all the right ingredient to be a huge hit this spring. Her 75-minute set was finished with “So Much More Than This” followed with an encore of the song that started it all: “I Don’t Know My Name”. Kids cheered for her to come back and a few parents remarked that they were glad the show ended at 8:30pm. There’s one more perk of a young superstar: the show starts on time and the kids are in bed at a reasonable hour.
Grace Vanderwaal is definitely isn’t going to fade out of the limelight when her fifteen minutes are up. Her spectacular voice and songwriting abilities will help her stay independent and maintain her individuality for many years to come. I am really glad I got to see Grace Friday night. Her show was amazing and this will definitely be her first and last tour in a small venue.
- Insane Sometimes
- Sick Of Being Told
- Gossip Girl
- City Song
- Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros cover: Home
- Light The Sky
- Escape My Mind
- Talk Good
- A Better Life
- Unreleased song “Clearly” based off of Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now”
- Beautiful Thing
- So Much More Than This
- I Don’t Know My Name