Alessia Cara shines on debut ACL performance

Canadian singer/songwriter Alessia Cara shot to fame while still a teenager, scoring smash hits with collaborations with producer Zedd and rapper Logic as well as on her own, earning a coveted Best New Artist Grammy win earlier this year. The 22-year-old hit our stage not only to perform her hits, but also to preview songs from her much anticipated second LP The Pains of Growing.

Cara’s three piece band and trio of backup singers took the stage first for a mix of pre-recorded ambience and band warm-ups, before a voice offstage said “ACL, what’s up?” Wearing a loose suit that would make David Byrne proud, the Brampton, Ontario native arrived onstage singing the devotional pop tune “I’m Yours.” A freestanding tom appeared onstage for her to pound along with the band, the tribal rumble leading into the anthemic “Wild Things.” A funkier beat backed her as she sang “Four Pink Walls,” a tune about overcoming self-doubt and fulfilling dreams. Donning an acoustic guitar, Cara essayed the dramatic mid-tempo “Overdose,” then switched to a Les Paul for the soulful “Outlaws.” Once again axe-less, she recruited the audience on call-and-response for the beat-heavy “Seventeen,” a request the crowd was happy to fulfill.

Cara shifted gears for “Best Part,” a folky love song written by a fellow Toronto artist named Daniel Caesar. Her band quit the stage as she strapped on a guitar for “A Little More,” a new single from her forthcoming record that she mentioned having played only three or four times before. The crowd loved it, but that was nothing compared to the reaction to the next number. Her smash from the hit Disney film Moana, “How Far I’ll Go,” had the audience singing along from the first note. She followed that with her breakthrough hit, “Here,” her very first single and a song for everyone who doesn’t need to be part of the in crowd to feel alive – with a special bonus extra verse for a version distinct from what we’ve heard on the radio. Then came “Growing Pains,” the introspective but upbeat first single from the upcoming second LP due out this fall.

Cara’s second-to-last song carried a message about loving oneself and rejecting society’s attempts to disrupt that. “You should know you’re beautiful just the way you are,” she asserted in the pop anthem “Scars to Your Beautiful,” a huge hit and a song that really resonates. Then it was on to the final song “Stay,” another massive hit she shared with producer Zedd which erupted into an instant crowd singalong. Smoke bombs and streamers brought the tune and show to a close. It was a great debut, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs this fall as part of our upcoming Season 44 on your local PBS station.