Gracie Abrams encourages laughter, tears at Fonda

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Gracie Abrams returned to her hometown last night for the first of two sold-out shows at the Fonda Theatre. The Los Angeles native is back a year after selling out two nights at the El Rey, playing numerous 2022 dates opening for Olivia Rodrigo and she’s on the heels of opening The Eras Tour —that’s right, the star-studded Taylor Swift extravaganza. Abrams plays numerous dates around the country with Swift, starting April 1 in Dallas for 30 dates. But back to Night 1 of The Good Riddance Tour —Abrams debuted a new song with opener trio Tiny Habits, she moved about the stage from different pianos and guitars, playing many of her well-known songs and even graciously paused for the safety of two noticeably dehydrated fans. If that weren’t enough already going on, the Hollywood location, which always seems to attract stars from every corner of entertainment had lots of starlets present including singers Tate McRae, Lexi Jayde, Laufey and Hope Tala paying their respects. Daisy Jones & The Six breakout star Camila Morrone was there as well, enjoying Abrams’ tunes with supermodel Kaia Gerber and singer Charlotte Lawrence.

Folk-pop trio Tiny Habits offered a delightful three-part harmony throughout their set, having only released three songs (and announcing today that their debut EP Tiny Things is due April 12). Cinya Khan, Judah Mayowa and Maya Rae played those already-released tracks as well as some new ones starting off with the beautiful “Hemenway”, with Khan on guitar. On “One More”, they alternated lead on the verses (which is the case for a lot of their tunes), continuing a peaceful and effortless harmonies. The organic “Tiny Things” was introduced as a song the group wrote back in a stairwell while studying at Berklee. New song “Delay” was led by Khan and followed by Rae, with pretty “oohs” by the end. They seriously do not even need lyrics and their “oohs” would be a vibe. Mayowa led the next song “Some Things (I’ve Learned)” about summertime, with standout runs from Rae. Next was a really special cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide”, noticeable from the first chord with a slew of impressive runs from Mayowa. [Observation: A young fan had never heard the iconic song so it’s especially cool for an emerging act like Tiny Habits chose this one to expose a whole new generation]. Tiny Habits concluded with the acoustic-driven “pennies” with harmonies completely off the charts as camera lights were held up by most everyone in the audience.

Gracie Abrams‘ set launched with a single strobe light twinkling in and her keyboardist Casey Kalmenson (who also plays keys) and drummer (who also plays guitar) took their places, followed by Gracie, with screams galore. The whole place was singing along to “Where do we go now?’ once Abrams took the stage, silhouetted for a verse and a chorus. Smith’s drums kicked hard by the second verse and a bit more light made its way onto Abrams, revealing a black dress and heels. Some powerful “whoa-oh” notes by the end were met with a massive applause.

A red stage wash added an element of mystery to “This is what the drugs are for”, with Abrams briefly squatting on the first verse to check out her fans at eye level. The catchy, folk-pop tune found the artist moving about the stage from drummer Smith to guitarist Kalmenson (who harmonized). Abrams sat at the piano bench for the last phrase and crossed her legs on the final lyric “like all I ever do is think about you.” The Fonda was all screams for Abrams’ breakthrough song, “21”, jumping and singing along throughout, and at one point yelling “Sorry” in unison. Abrams really brought some Lorde flavor to “Block Me Out”, on guitar for a pop song with rock elements, where you could truly hear the clarity in her tone, especially on some big belted notes. Orange and pink illuminated Grace Abrams for “i should hate you”, while she was still on guitar. Five spotlights appeared mid-song behind Abrams and other glowing bulbs made an appearance around the ensemble, creating a wonderful visual on stage with lights cascading, contrasting those lyrics “I should hate you.”

Photo by Zoe Sher

“Welcome to The Good Riddance Tour, we’re home,” said Abrams. “I can’t express my gratitude, Casey and I grew up here. I’m just so grateful. This venue, when I was 13, a week before Lorde released Pure Heroine I was here.” She talked about The Fonda in particular and the need to pinch herself standing on the very stage where she saw one of her inspirations 10 years after that moment. “Can we hear it for Tiny Habits? I love them and I’m glad you all got to experience them live. I have friends and family here tonight, I love you all.” Then she invited everyone to laugh and cry before playing 2020 track “Friend,” on piano, with her voice hitting a sweet spot on her falsetto on the line “I hate the way you love me and I hate that I still care.” Abrams completely mastered her dynamics on “i know it won’t work”, one of the best of the night with the fans singing along and the band hitting a high point with energy, vocals and instrumentation.

Abrams was back at the guitar for the chill “Full machine”, playing under undulating golden and orange lights fanning the musicians, turning on a dime from a ballad to a rocking song as the stage went red. From “i know it won’t work” to “Full machine”, it was a one-two punch of the range Abrams offers. Though she never finished it, Abrams so graciously stopped the tune to alert the venue of a fan in distress near the stage. After the person got help, Abrams said, “This community is the best one I’ve ever been a part of in my life and you really seem to care about one another.” Another fan was struggling and Abrams paused again and then took a seat at the organ for “Amelie,” with really lovely acoustic guitar from Smith, while Abrams’ phrasing was pure magic. Both Smith and Kalmenson harmonized so beautifully during the prayer-like tune and Abrams’ voice soared for a painstaking moment at the end. Still at the organ, Abrams delivered an impassioned vocal on “Rockland”, with fans joining once again, and their star stood up for the powerful bridge during the moving lyric “I see you every night in my sleep.”

Photo by Zoe Sher

Lights flashed and the crowd danced wildly for the lively pop-rock bop “Difficult” and the energy was flipped for the pretty “Camden” with Abrams standing center stage at the mic stand. Smith brought over a guitar for Abrams halfway through and for dramatic emphasis, the lights shimmered and almost bugged out for a couple seconds, on purpose. The organic “Fault line”  had Abrams in her groove both vocally and on guitar, cruising through a soothing melody, with more amazing keys from Kalmenson as fans gently sang along with blue hues surrounding their star. On “Best,” Gracie Abrams was seated center stage at the keyboard with greens shining up into the rafters and Smith’s drums smashing on the final refrain. The whole venue was singing in unison on “Feels Like,” a fun up-tempo with the crowd yelling “this is what it feels like.” Abrams’ voice soared and the band sounded solid together once again as Abrams waved an LGBTQ banner, draping it along a keyboard in solidarity with the community.

“I really can’t express how much it means to be here,” shared Abrams. “I was having an out-of-body experience before. We’ve all had a lot of shit thrown at us the last couple years and we have all been going through it personally and collectively. But together with you all, I’m just the luckiest person in the world that I get to know you and you have reassured me that I am not alone in my experience. That’s the greatest gift you can give is a community. I read your letters and messages.” Abrams went on to share that she has joined The Eras Tour and added, “Phoebe [Bridgers] said it best: how lucky are we to grow up in a world with Taylor Swift. We’re all kind of gearing up for that. To be here at home, days before that all happens, I hope you at least feel a fraction of how you’ve made me feel tonight.”

Abrams returned to the piano with her fans singing along to “I miss you, I’m sorry”, powerfully playing the keys. It gave off a stadium-ready ballad vibe that is just a taste of what’s to come in future weeks opening for Swift, with audience members’ arms around one another and hands up swaying. The set was completed with “Right now”, Abrams was center stage at a different keyboard for the vulnerable tune and strobe lights pulsed for an intense moment by the song’s end. Walkie talkie voices could be heard on the sound system and fans were shouting “Gracie” for her return. For her encore, Gracie Abrams welcomed back Tiny Habits for the live debut of a new song called “405.” Abrams described it as “being at the wheel and feeling crazy” and her decision to have Tiny Habits join her created spectacular harmonies to close out a moody and emotion-filled evening with both Kalmenson and Smith on guitars.  

Gracie Abrams and Tiny Habits play The Fonda’s sold-out Night 2 tonight with doors at 7:30 pm.

Words by Michael Menachem
Images by Zoe Sher

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