Grace Woodroofe. October 5, 2011.
9:30 Club. Washington, DC.
Opening for Ben Harper.
Wednesday’s performance was a rare and beautiful glimpse at an honest, open, and vulnerable young woman that left all of us in tears. At this point there is very little doubt, as in none, that Grace deserves her own separate concert review, regardless of her ‘opening act’ status.
Grace was rocking out in the usual manner running through tracks like Bear and Transformer. The fierce roar of her vocals pull your heartstrings and suddenly you’re aware of pain and love like you’ve never felt before. With arms by her side and hair in her face, she sings the blues like a woman three times her age. The fusion of her innocence with the distorted guitars gives Grace a sound all her own. There just isn’t anybody out there that can wail the way she does and her live performance of Oh My God is testament to that.
Ben Harper, who is producing Grace’s debut album, Always Want, joined her on stage during the opening set. Her single, I’ve Handled Myself Wrong, features Ben on backup vocals during the chorus. Grace’s presence within her songs demand a connection with the audience, and there is no where else you’ll want to be. If you pay attention to the lyrics you can hear her leaving a piece of herself behind in every line.
Grace’s second number featuring Ben was the delicately written H. Starting off with a gently finger picked chord progression, her raspy yet soft vocals fall in soon after. I may have been caught with my eyes closed, feeling the moment, but suddenly about halfway through the song Grace just stopped and burst into tears. She tried to fight it, she tried to wipe them away and turn from the crowd but it wasn’t happening. Harper walked over to her and she quickly buried her face in his shoulder. He whispered something to her and she tried again to wipe away the tears. She could have cried for hours in his arms but instead she pulled it together, composed herself, and started right back in where she left off. Everyone around me had tears rolling down their cheeks. In the moment, and especially in hindsight, it was the purest, most emotionally honest moment I’ve ever experienced at a concert. Growing up usually takes years, but Grace did it in just one song. The love and appreciation I now have for Grace Woodroofe, as an artist and a person, is abounding.
It wasn’t until hours after the show that I finally put it all together. Even though Ben Harper is producing her album it was actually Heath Ledger that first ‘discovered’ Grace and wholeheartedly encouraged her to follow her dreams. As her manager, he even directed and produced her first video for the David Bowie song, Quicksand. By introducing Grace to Ben before his death, Ledger has helped keep the dream alive, and from inside Grace’s heart, Heath has the best seat in the house every night. In homage to her dearly departed friend, Grace wrote H., the hauntingly beautiful recollection of their time together. Some people in the audience thought she made a mistake during the song and was embarrassed, but that’s not what happened at all. The outpour of emotion was real, and true.
Thank you Grace. Thank you for following your dreams.
- Grace and Ben, unplugged. Photo by BlueSkyCampfires.
- Grace in song. Photo by BlueSkyCampfires.
- Grace on guitar. Photo by BlueSkyCampfires.
For more concert photos visit BlueSkyCampfires on Flickr.