At around 7:20 p.m. on Monday, March 28, an expansive line stretched around the block on South Street, with hundreds of teenage girls and their reluctant boyfriends and parents. Everyone was shaking, and not just with anticipation for the show, as the weather was a crisp 27 degrees Fahrenheit. With red noses and cheeks, the queue slowly inched forward towards the entrance to the Theatre of Living Arts. Above the front doors was a sign that read “Tate McRae Sold Out.”
Tate McRae is an 18–year–old singer, songwriter, and dancer from Calgary, Canada, who first started gaining attention when she was a contestant on So You Think You Can Dance season 13. After the show, she started her own Youtube channel called “Create With Tate” and uploaded a singing video that went viral. Her songs continued to be hits, and she's since released two EPs. She just announced that her first album, “i used to think i could fly," will be out on May 27. Her music tends to be fairly melancholic—mainly revolving around heartbreak and internal struggles.
To ramp up the excitement for McRae, there were two opening acts—GAYLE and Mimi Webb. Both young female artists, like the star of the show herself, they set the youthful, energetic, angsty, and relatable tone for the rest of the night. The excitement in the room was palpable, as squealing high school girls could likely be heard from Center City. GAYLE played most of the songs on her EP entitled “a study of the human experience volume one,” and ended her set with her most famous song, called “abcdefu.” Mimi Webb sang some of her top hits, including “Before I Go” and “House On Fire,” and she showcased her strong raspy voice that interestingly sounds similar to McRae's.
Fruit–flavored vape smoke intermittently floated throughout the room and the smell of cheap Victoria’s Secret body spray lingered in the air while we waited for the main attraction. McRae and her two background dancers skipped onto the stage, with McRae wearing a Philadelphia Eagles jersey—a clever way to build rapport with the local crowd. She opened with the song “stupid” while showing off her impressive dancing skills.
Everyone in the crowd knew every single word by heart and yelled them along with her. Bright hues of purple flashed and bounced all over the room while McRae continued to command the room with her undeniable stage presence. It was easy to tell that she had extensive performing experience as she glided across the stage with a huge grin on her face.
After she finished her first song, she spoke directly to the audience and told everyone that she was in Philadelphia a while ago for Jingle Ball, and that when she was here, the Philadelphia audience was the best and most supportive one that she had encountered. The bright colorful lights transitioned into white ones as she slowed down the tempo and brought down the energy for her song “r u ok?”
McRae made sure to connect with the audience throughout the show, making great eye contact, pointing to people, and speaking directly to the crowd. After singing a heartfelt version of her song “happy face,” she ramped up the intensity and belted out one of her edgier songs called “all my friends are fake.” At one point during the song, she proved she’s truly a multifaceted artist and performer, pulling off a move that doesn’t seem humanly possible, and sticking one leg up straight in the air while the other one remained glued to the floor.
Her setlist also included hits such as “wish i loved you in the 90s,” “she’s all i wanna be,” “bad ones,” and “rubberband.” Those songs included a mix of fast and slow tempos, constantly keeping the audience on their toes. She brought back the mellow tone when she sat on the stage and sang a cover of the song “Breakeven” by The Script. Before she sang it, she explained to the audience that “Breakeven” is her go–to road trip song and that it resonates with her on a deep level. The audience was silent as they hung on her every word. It felt like a vulnerable moment where she and the audience became one.
What really makes McRae special among a world of talented artists is that she markets herself as “just another teenage girl,” and it works to create a strong bond and connection with her audience. She's someone her young fans aspire to be like. As she continues her tour all around North America, Europe, and the United Kingdom, and looks ahead to accompanying Shawn Mendes on his tour next fall, she will no doubt continue to expand her fan base.
She ended the night with the song that made her blow up and gain respect as a singer: “you broke me first.” The punchy beats accompanied by memorable kicks, hair flips, and punches were an excellent way to end the night, as they ensured that the audience was sufficiently hyped up for her upcoming album. She then thanked everyone for coming, said "I love you," and waved goodbye, which solidified the feeling that she truly cares for her fans.
Young girls looked at each other with confusion and panic in their eyes and asked, “That’s it?” They wanted more—and they will get it soon. May 27 to be exact.