Grace VanderWaal was at the Varsity Theater on Friday night as part of her Ur So Beautiful Tour and the Varsity was packed. My first exposure to Grace VanderWaal was on the TV show America’s Got Talent. That is when I and America fell in love with the 12 year old ukulele playing singer/songwriter. I first saw/photographed Grace at a WE Day event at the Xcel Energy Center in 2017 and I was really interested to see how much she has changed.
I arrived near the Varsity Theater on Friday night and spent 15 minutes or more driving around looking for parking. On first pass of the Varsity theater, there was a line of people that wrapped over a block around the side of the Varsity Theater. Finally finding a spot in a small parking lot hidden between shops, I gathered up my photography gear and headed to the Varsity Theater. The line of people was still over a block long, so I finally got into the theater about 10 minutes late. Grace wasn’t scheduled to appear for almost another hour, so I was surprised to see the theater near capacity.
Opening for Grace was Patrick Martin. Martin said he was born in Wisconsin and heard mostly cheers with a few boos sprinkled in. Although born in Saukville, WI, Martin currently lives in Los Angeles. Despite being introduced to music at an early age, he didn’t decide to make a career of it until after attending Marquette for a degree in psychology and sociology. His influences include the Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, the Allman Brothers, and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. It was obvious the young ladies in the crowd especially enjoyed his set, swooning and cheering regularly. Martin was a great opener for VanderWaal and well received by the audience.
Grace entered the stage to rousing applause and chants from the audience. She was bare foot, dressed in a gray long sleeve shirt with black stripes and brown slacks. My first impression was Grace has matured a lot since I last saw her, both physically and as an artist. No longer the wide eyed, giggly, star struck preteen girl, Grace was a taller and seemed composed and experienced beyond her now 15 years of age. Her voice has evolved also with greater range and a smoother presentation. But she still seemed humble and overjoyed to be on the stage performing before a live audience. She jumped and danced and was constantly on the move.
She started the evening singing and added guitar and ukulele on subsequent songs. I really enjoyed the performance as did the audience evidenced by the loud ovations and frequent chants of “Grace” and “I Love You”. Grace is evolving as a singer and performer, but part of me missed the smaller, giggly version of Grace with the crackly voice and hyper presentation. It was also nice to see her in a smaller venue like the Varsity Theater versus the Target Center, or US Bank Stadium. If you prefer seeing singers in a smaller venue, you better see her soon. Grace is a rising star and will be in much larger venues in the very near future.