London Wulff, the 11-year-old daughter of our wonderful music writer Eva Raggio, reviewed the Grace VanderWaal show for us. Wullf is a straight-A student, singer, dancer and ukulele player who can kill a grown man with her karate moves. She enjoys live music and meeting artists — she has sat on Ashlee Simpson's lap and once chased Christopher Lloyd until he told her where Marty McFly was. Her obsessions include making slime (and a mess) out of glue, traveling and Elvis.
Grace VanderWaal is a 14-year-old singer-songwriter who won the 11th season of America’s Got Talent two years ago. As a prize, she got a recording contract and $1 million. She has released two albums so far, Perfectly Imperfect and Just the Beginning. She is on tour and performed Tuesday night at Trees in Deep Ellum.
Obviously, the show was sold out. There were little Graces everywhere scattered around like ants. And, strangely, many grown men. When the show started, the crowd of people screamed as they saw VanderWaal.
The first song she performed was “Moonlight” (one of her most popular songs by far). As she sang “Moonlight,” the stage lit up with a purple glow. Pretty much everyone knew all the words, like, even the men. VanderWaal's voice sounded smooth but tired — probably because she was on tour. She also has a naturally raspy sound.
Some of her friends were at the show, and they said they followed her around on tour. It was incredible to also see famous YouTube stars Brooklyn and Bailey, who were taking pictures with every fan who asked for one. They said VanderWaal's manager invited them because they grew up in Dallas, and they know her from YouTube events.
After every song, VanderWaal took a drink from her water bottle and said a few words about the struggles of life. She wore a cute, raggedy pink dress and had sparkly anklets on her bare feet. She looked very independent and childlike. She had her hair up in a high ponytail with glitter in it. When she went backstage to change, a staff member threw Grace VanderWaal T-shirts to the crowd. When she came back, she was wearing a stunning velvety red robe. She also plugged her Vevo videos. As the crowd sang, she kissed her fingers the way a chef would and smiled.
She did not seem even remotely tired. She was happily jumping around the stage like a monkey throughout the whole performance. The crowd acted wild but calm and respectful toward VanderWaal. As she sang, she sounded angelic on the stage. She always stepped or clapped on each beat, and she was on time for each lyric of the song.
During the show, VanderWaal did some funny things. For example, as she was on the floor singing a song, a fan gave her some '60s-looking sunglasses. VanderWaal quickly put them on and started posing with them, but she of course gave them back.
One thing about VanderWaal is that she is sweet and charming with adults and children. She loves to talk about herself and what her career is like. She has a tight schedule and a rough job, yet she seems so chill about it. She acts casual and talks to the crowd as if her life were easy to get around. And she’s still a teen, still figuring out her life. But hey, no biggie.
VanderWaal had this electric vibe, which made her performance upbeat and fun. Toward the middle of her show, she sat down on the stage and, surprisingly, played "River" by Leon Bridges, a Dallas artist. Which is funny because she is from New York. No one really seemed to know this, though, but there were a few people who yelled out, “Leon!” as she played it. She had a tambourine out and shook it to the beat. She also did a cover of “Home” by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.
Another surprising thing is that the people who accompany her (a drummer, guitarist and keyboardist) were all very young like VanderWaal. They really jazzed up the stage as they all played very precisely and followed alongside her.
VanderWaal seemed like she belonged in Dallas. She fit in and felt loose, not stressed out about performing. She was kind to everyone in the audience and even said, “Thank you, Dallas. You’re one of my favorite shows.”
When VanderWaal's puppy ran onstage, the crowd’s reaction was mixed between awws and laughs. VanderWaal started laughing and said, “Oh, my God. My dog is a rebel.”
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Then she sang a song that hasn’t been released, which samples Johnny Nash’s song “I Can See Clearly Now.” She asked the crowd first if people remembered the song from the '70s or if they knew it from the Claritin commercial like she does. All the adults laughed. She said when she first heard the song, she wanted to release it as a single but “didn’t want to be known as medicine girl.” She said it was a hard song to sing, but she managed to sing it wonderfully.
For her last song, she played “So Much More Than This” very beautifully and wildly. But all the noise stopped at the encore when, all of a sudden, the crowd started screaming louder than when VanderWaal first started the show. VanderWaal had her ukelele out and started singing. The song she played for the encore was obviously her most famous song, the one that got her the golden buzzer on America’s Got Talent, “I Don’t Know My Name.” Everyone sang along with her.
At the end of the song, VanderWaal got the biggest applause of her performance. Although it was sad it was over, everyone had a great time and waited outside for her in the cold chanting, “Grace,” over and over. But some of us had to go home because it was late.