An old-school musicians cliche held there were three ways to get to the big stage: Practice, practice, practice. In recent years, alas, those routes have given way to YouTube, “American Idol” and the Disney sitcom. Greyson Chance and Cody Simpson both used Option No. 1.
At Sixth & I Historic Synagogue on Thursday, Chance used a 25-minute set to celebrate the one-year anniversary, to the day, of the posting of the short film that launched him. In that viral clip, the then pre-teen pianist/singer from Oklahoma crooned Lady Gaga's "Paparazzi" at his 6th grade talent show. Within a verse and a chorus, a gaggle of schoolgirls abandoned any fear of cooties and became visibly enraptured with their classmate. According to YouTube, Chance's clip has logged more than 39 million views.
Chance, now 13, recreated every bit of the gloriousness of his Gaga cover in the middle of his Synagogue set, and won over the much bigger, though similarly-aged, audience just as surely. He kept the Tiger Beat target demo swooning with a version of Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind" that showed flashes of Freddie Mercury and had enough bombast for Broadway. He delivered "Waiting Outside the Lines," a song he'd unveiled earlier in the week as the special guest performer at the White House Easter Egg Roll, as Coldplay would.
Catching Chance at this stage in his career is akin to watching a thoroughbred of impeccable breeding gallop as a yearling. He doesn't have his legs under him yet, and stumbles are possible, but the raw materials are such that it's hard to bet against him running with the big boys in a few years.
After his set, Chance shared a soul shake and a chest-bump onstage with show-closer Cody Simpson that were charmingly lacking in both soul and chests. Simpson, a 14-year-old Australian, was discovered via his 2009 YouTube postings. Simpson's performance, which was a juice box to Chance's champagne, relied on pre-recorded vocals and a dance troupe, but the kids didn't hold that against him.