After a slight drizzle for the Reno community on Sept. 9, coming together for a sensational and engaging performance by Grace Kelly felt like a breath of fresh air. 

With the air smelling like rain, a large crowd of Kelly fans came together to watch the beautiful performance underneath the moonlit, dreary sky at the Robert Z. Hawkins Amphitheater. It was an experience like no other.

Grace Kelly playing the saxophone on stage with drummer behind her and guitar player beside her under purple lights.

Rachel Jackson/Nevada Sagebrush
Grace Kelly blows the crowd away with her musical skills.

Before getting into the details of the Sept. 9 performance, it is important to note that Kelly had arrived in Reno the day before the live show. She visited the University of Nevada, Reno for a meet and greet at The Center for Student Engagement in the Joe Crowley Student Union. 

Kelly joined a group of approximately 30 students, most being music majors, and answered any lingering questions or topics of conversation they wanted to engage in. She took selfies with those in attendance, offered free tickets to her concert and even played a couple of improvised tunes with some university band members who had brought their instruments to the meeting. 

Kelly gave some key insights on her creative process of composing. Her methods  range from journaling for therapeutic calm composing, to getting into a “dream-state”, where she’ll go about her day and slowly get her imagination running. The musician even explained to students about how she keeps a folder on her phone to save all potential song ideas or melodies that she could work with. 

Getting to see and talk with Grace Kelly got a lot of the students in attendance excited and riled up for the performance, and for good reason. Her return to the Performing Arts Series stage completely wowed the crowd. 

Right when Kelly and her band hit the stage, they started the concert off with a bang, playing a cover song of “Unchain My Heart” by Ray Charles. It was a jazzy pop song that echoed through the ears of the audience. It was a great way to get everyone moving and dancing along to the catchy tunes right off the bat.

Her band consisted of Devon Yesberger on piano and keyboard, Timothy Bailey on bass, and Connor Kent on drums, with Kelly playing the saxophone and singing.

As she transitioned into her second song of the set, she explained how the song, “Count on Me”, was inspired by Bill Withers’s song “Lean on Me.” Grace said to the crowd, “Music is this companion, this vibration, this energy … that brings us all together.” 

The song, “Count on Me”, has a beautiful steady melody. She was surrounded by the sound of the drums, bass and keyboard as she played the whole song on her sax, hitting beautiful high notes and giving a calming, welcoming feel with the chorus. The high notes she is able to hit on the saxophone are absolutely incredible to listen to, every note echoing the room and hitting you in you to your very soul.

Kelly told the audience the saxophone had reminded her of a human voice, and when she hit the high pitches of a song during the show, it was sure to make fans feel the same way.

Grace Kelly crosses her legs in white pants, playing the saxophone and smiling in front of her drummer.

Rachel Jackson/Nevada Sagebrush
Grace Kelly engages with her admiring crowd while performing.

Kelly then played “Trying to Figure It Out”, another original, she explained had been inspired by her mom. 

On a tough day, where she wished she could go back and change the things that happened, her mom had told her to just keep putting one foot in front of the other, because every time one door closes, another one opens. Kelly said her mother’s words had inspired her to go straight to a keyboard, where she wrote this beautiful, bluesy melody. 

The song is soft, with a calm jazz feel, while the lyrics give advice and encouragement to listeners to keep trying. 

One of the best lines in the song is “So keep your head high and do the best you can … We’re all trying to figure it out.” Kelly won the fans’ hearts with the lyrics of this one as she convinced them that they’re all getting through life together. 

“Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby” shocked the audience as she jumped from the blues to a more jazz, tap-dancing rhythm. The sass that this song brought to the audience enticed them to dance to the rhythm, feeling all the sexy beats and deep rumbles from Kelly’s vocals. 

After Kelly finished the jam, she engaged with the crowd, asking what they’ve been up to in the last year. She asked if anyone had fallen in love during the quarantine period, before she dedicated this love song to all those who had. 

The song was created based on the safety and love she feels with her boyfriend, describing their relationship as a feeling of comfort, hence the title “Feels Like Home”. Kelly had won the John Lennon Songwriting Contest for “Song of the Year” with this original song.

The calm, tender melody allows for a heart-warming feeling to be sent through your body. Hearing her beautiful tone through the lyrics in this song will send goosebumps through your skin and put a smile on your face, even if you aren’t in love. The affection in her voice as she sang this song on stage was sincere and magical. 

Soon after, the singer played one of her saddest and most powerful songs. “By the Grave” was created to stir the feelings of grief over a lost loved one. Kelly wanted to be able to correctly interpret that feeling and put it into a song that people could relate to and recognize when they heard it. She wanted to show them the resemblance of this song and the feeling of heartbreak.

The song starts as a calming blues song before it is carried into heavier beats and powerful drum tunes, completely shifting the song’s tone. During the performance, the pitches were raised and it started to sound like a war song—that’s how you knew things were getting serious. 

The high keys and fast pick-up felt chaotic and all over the place, but it was exactly the type of music that reached this audience. Kelly did a wonderful job of planning this out to match people’s emotions of chaos after a loved one’s death and match the same feeling of chills through your body as if you’ve lived that grief all over again. 

By the end, Kelly got into more covers like “Smile” by Nat King Cole, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Judy Garland, and “Come Together” by the Beatles.

The Beatles song had the crowd really engaged, with everyone out of their seats, clapping, singing and dancing

 Kelly asked the audience to sing along with her, put their flashlights up and move their hands side to side as they came together just for this wonderful classic. 

The singer ended the show by playing her original song “Lemons Make Lemonade” featuring Jon Batiste. Kelly told the audience that she asked Batiste to join her on a track in her new album and when he agreed, she hadn’t even thought of any ideas yet. Luckily, the song came to her when she was brushing her teeth and she said she knew it was “Jon’s song.”

Grace Kelly surrounded by piano man, drummer and guitar player under green stage lights.

Rachel Jackson/Nevada Sagebrush
Grace Kelly rocks the Robert Z. Hawkins Amphitheater stage with her astounding band.

The crowd danced along with her as she performed the song, clapping their hands along to the beats as she ended the set with this awesome, upbeat original that drew the audience in one last time. It was a happy, light-hearted song on the sax to finish the night off. 

Overall, Grace Kelly, award-winning singer, song-writer and saxophonist, rocked Reno’s stage and made all of the people in attendance fall in love with her sassy and heartfelt jazz music. The performance was an unforgettable one.

Grace Kelly sure made herself a hard-act to follow, but the Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company is sure to bring their a-game with their performance at the next Performing Arts Series on Oct. 14

Jaedyn Young can be reached at or on Twitter @jaedyn_young3.