Tori Kelly performs at South Side Ballroom in Dallas Friday April 8, 2016. (Andy Jacobsohn/The Dallas Morning News)

Tori Kelly performs at South Side Ballroom in Dallas Friday April 8, 2016. (Andy Jacobsohn/The Dallas Morning News)

In the breezy pop 'n' soul single "Unbreakable Smile," 23-year-old songbird Tori Kelly threw a kind of artist's fantasy into her lyrics: "Maybe I can sell out shows without taking off my clothes." 

Thing is, in the time since that song and its album of the same name came out last year, Kelly has already seen that daydream become reality. It was obvious on Friday night at South Side Ballroom that the Californian prodigy is on her way to pop music's heights -- the expansive hall was positively packed, with excited young fans greeting every spoken or sung line with screams.

I was actually taken aback to see such an out-of-control audience upon walking into the place. Kelly's talent as a singer, songwriter and guitarist is remarkable, to be sure, but that doesn't always pack houses. I thought her show in Dallas might be overlooked in the same way that the artist herself was at this year's Grammys, when the comparatively lightweight Meghan Trainor stole her Best New Artist trophy.

So it was encouraging to see that music's most coveted demo -- the high-school and college set -- have become obsessed with Kelly. This is the type of fandom that should pay off for years to come. The woman's well runs deep when it comes to writing skills and stage prowess. She's got runs that could make Mariah Carey do a triple take.

Tori Kelly performs at the South Side Ballroom in Dallas Friday April 8, 2016. (Andy Jacobsohn/The Dallas Morning News)

Tori Kelly performs at the South Side Ballroom in Dallas Friday April 8, 2016. (Andy Jacobsohn/The Dallas Morning News)

And even if Kelly sounded brilliant doing her aforementioned hit single with her band, she proved several times on Friday that she needed no one else to command the stage. Armed with her acoustic guitar, she gave fans slightly jazzy, intricate originals like "Paper Hearts" and "Falling Slow." 

There were also cover songs from Kelly's early days interpreting other folks' hits and racking up YouTube views -- a soulful medley of Justin Timberlake's "Suit and Tie," Michael Jackson's "PYT" and Frank Ocean's "Thinkin' Bout You" got the people singing along with abandon.

No matter what Kelly did at her South Side show -- from slow crooning to rapping -- she was a convincing and confident showman.

The lyrics from last year's album touch on the singer's personal dreams and also aim to inspire her young fans, but it will be fascinating to see what she writes as she journeys through the 20s and beyond.

Good on those fans Friday for rewarding serious musicianship and talent. The future's so bright.

Twitter: @hausofhunter

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