Arts, Features

Review: Teen prodigy Grace VanderWaal wows crowd at Royale

A 12-year-old girl walks out onto a stage, alone, with a ukulele, a microphone and an original song. In front of her sit four judges and a theatre filled to the brim with strangers. Everyone in that room is hoping she’ll “wow” them, but probably expect nothing more than a cute performance. 

Grace VanderWaal performs at The Royale in Boston on Friday as part of her “Ur So Beautiful” tour. MARIA JIMENEZ MOYA/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

The video of what happened next has garnered nearly 98 million views on YouTube and set teenager Grace VanderWaal on a path that saw her win the reality television program America’s Got Talent and become a household name. 

On Friday night, the now 15-year-old Vanderwaal performed at Boston’s Royale. 

VanderWaal rose to prominence after appearing on the 11th season of America’s Got Talent in 2016, where judge Howie Mandel gave her performance the prestigious golden buzzer that sent her through a few early stages of the competition ahead of other performers. Shortly after winning the competition, she released her first EP titled “Perfectly Imperfect” and an album the following year titled “Just the Beginning.” 

Throughout the show, VanderWaal carried herself with maturity and class. She smiled constantly and the positive energy she exuded was contagious. Her vocal range is also as impressive in person as it is on TV. People of all ages were at Friday’s show, from children holding up posters of her name to young adults drinking vodka cranberries and enjoying the show. 

Following her opening song “UR So Beautiful” she brought out her ukulele. VanderWaal has come a long way from her America’s Got Talent audition. Unlike the anxious anticipation which greeted her on that fateful performance, here the crowd went absolutely wild to see her with her signature instrument.

My favorite moment of the night was VanderWaal’s performance of her 2016 track, “Gossip Girl.” From where I was standing, I could tell that VanderWaal got lost in “Gossip Girl.” The performance was so natural that the ukulele seemed like an extension of her body.  

VanderWaal was comfortable on stage. Far from simply singing through her songs, she made an effort to interact with her audience. Following a performance of 2019’s “Stray,” VanderWall shared with the crowd that she recently got an energy crystal, which she wears around her neck. She encouraged the audience to get one for themselves by emphasizing how it elevates the positive energy in a room. 

Although she is an incredibly talented songwriter, VanderWaal ventured out of her own catalogue. She performed Billy Joel’s “Vienna” and Rex Orange County’s  “Best Friends.” VanderWaal continued to keep the audience involved by teaching them the lyrics to “Best Friends” so they could join in.

Once VanderWaal brought her ukulele out on stage with her again, the crowd became ecstatic. It was as if the audience knew exactly what she was going to play. Once again, Grace VanderWaal stood on stage in the middle of a packed venue, with her ukulele in hand, to sing “I Don’t Know My Name,” the original song which propelled her into prominence. 

This time, however, she had fans all around her singing every word by heart. In fact, you could hear the audience louder than you could hear VanderWaal’s voice. She prompted the audience to sing even louder by pointing the microphone at them.

VanderWaal finished with her most recent single “Waste My Time.” Although the crowd’s energy was palpable, there was a hint of sadness as the show was reaching its end. VanderWaal gave it her all until the very last second.

16 Comments

  1. Don’t forget…Grace has the starring role in the Disney+ movie, Stargirl. Grace IS Stargirl. Stargirl IS Grace. It’s set to be released sometime after the 1st of the year. She also has an EP on the way.

  2. Excellent article. Really enjoy watching Grace grow. When you start as a shining star. Next step super nova!

  3. She wow me on her first performance . Everyone after that did floor me. I couldnt believe she did such an excellent job on the first writting of the first song. Then song after song was outstanding with her unquiet touch and her unquiet voice. That bring the song together and brands it hers. I simply love listening to her master pieces. She is truely gifted and has already made her mark in this world . We know your name Grace .

  4. “You go Grace!” So proud of my #1 pick on AGT. Listen to her CD almost everyday..and share her music with my Uber riders.

  5. Love Grace. It’s not just the singer/songwriter. She is a wonderful person
    whose done a lot for many charities.
    Wish her a long happy career.

  6. She is the bomb and that covers it.

  7. I was so honored to have the opportunity to hear Grace Vanderwaal at the Bluebird Theater, here in Denver, Colorado on 03 September 2019 at 7:30 pm.
    I remember Simon Cowell predicting that Miss Vanderwaal was the next Taylor Swift – Miss Vanderwaal is a very beautiful person.
    What a great performance she gave on that wonderful Tuesday Night herein Denver. Can’t wait to see and hear her again.

  8. Grace is truly a rare talent. I saw her in Detroit last summer opening for Imagine Dragons. I honestly enjoyed her performance more than I did ID’s show. She just keeps getting better with each new song. And I don’t mind the covers. She does some better than the originals.

  9. Thank God for you! Thank God for your report in this article , and the beauty in words that you’ve now brought to my day. It makes me cry. Grace, as Howie Mandel said on AGT during the semifinals, or the final performance on AGT , I can’t remember which , but she does just that, that he mentioned loudly and clearly, in that is that what she is, is Grace ! She is just that. She lives by her name! She is Grace! She is so special! Everytime I watch her I Cry oh, because I am so happy for her, and I am so proud of her for being true to herself, true to her family, true to God! You know she is a gift from God! Thank you for your report! I wish I could have been there!

  10. robert D tausworthe

    I just saw her SF concert and had a great time. I loved that she played some of her newest yet-to-be released songs and they were amazing! Can’t wait for her next videos and EP.

  11. I really, really like Grace. I really really hope she doesn’t turn into Mylie… They would be sad.

  12. Grace please come to San Antonio texas and perform please. I love and enjoy your music.You are so talented and a blessing. Can’t wait to get my front row ticket.

  13. The minute I saw her on AGT I knew she was going to win it! Love her NPR TINY Desk Concert. She is awesome.

  14. Grace’s concert in Chicago was th he first concert I’ve been to in many, many, many years. So thrilled that I went. Her energy was contagious, her songs and small conversations with the crowd were supercharged. She absolutely owned that stage! She interacted with the crowd and kept them engaged the entire time. She kindly greeted those whose hand were extended and gracefully disengaged from those who were a little too eager to hang on to her.
    Grace is charming, powerful, brilliant, impish, masterfully engaging, mature in her skills and youthful in her spirit. I’ll see her as often as she comes to the area.
    Everyone loves you Grace, but be sure to take time to unwind an be be free too. ❤

  15. I am from Australia, I have loved Grace since she was on AGT, from the first song she did for the show, I was hocked, The song I don’t know my name, gave me chills, as I was like that as a kid, I was so glad she won the show, I know she has many fans here in Australia, Grace can only go up, and up, I have watched her first audition so many times, I want to go to America and see her life one day

  16. Robert Woertendyke

    She is both beautiful and talented. Her writing is exceptional. She loves the audience and the audience loves her. She puts on a great show.