A few hours before she took the stage Saturday night, Ariana Grande sent devotees into a hyperventilating mass with a simple tweet. The news: she’s going to announce more U.S. dates for her “Sweetener” tour.
Cue the shrieking.
That Grande has retained immense poise after publicly enduring several emotional maelstroms – the bombing tragedy after her show in England in 2017, the overdose death of former love Mac Miller, the breakup with comedian Pete Davidson – is laudable. She’ll turn 26 later this month, but has been forced to confront many painful experiences that informed her music and inspired the quick turnaround of her “Thank U, Next” album.
Her tour, however, is still named for last summer’s “Sweetener” release and her live show heavily spotlights both albums.
At Saturday’s sold-out performance at State Farm Arena - the 33rd date on a U.S. run that was slated to end in August but will now evidently be extended - Grande shimmied, gyrated and belted through 100 minutes of the dance-tinged pop/R&B that has earned her bragging rights as the most streamed solo female artist on several platforms.
Once the show resolved a couple of awkward false starts before Grande arrived on stage (was the curtain finished being pulled across? Were the houselights up or not? Was the band supposed to start playing or just stand there on a darkened stage?), it rolled briskly, an impeccably produced, fan-friendly innovation.
Opening with “God is a Woman,” the singer cavorted in thigh-high boots with a table full of dancers, often disappearing among them given her diminutive stature and matching outfit. But her vocals are always easy to locate in the most massive crowd.
A four-piece band churned out the gentle clip-clop beat to “Bad Idea” as Grande sank to her knees under the dark-red-lighted stage. Her hair, scrutinized on social media with the importance of a college thesis, was in its rare flowing look, freed from that migraine-inducing (or so it looks) ponytail that is her hallmark.
Yes, despite possessing a four-octave voice, the state of her tresses is of equal importance to fans, the majority of whom were tweens when Grande first arrived in 2013.
Grande and her troupe of dancers frequently strolled the catwalk that looped around the arena floor, and those in the general admission pit in its center received a close-up view of the singer when she popped in there during a medley that included “Right There” and “Break Your Heart Right Back.”
Two giant orbs – one behind the stage and one above the pit – reflected images to supplement the songs, but the audience only cared about where Grande in her various spiked-heel boots, short skirts and midriff-baring tops would land.
She lounged on the stage floor for the lite-reggae of “R.E.M.”; paid tribute (perhaps?) to Madonna’s “Vogue” with “Be Alright”; led a conga line during the island groove of “Side to Side”; and offered choreographed moves under a haze of pink lights to “7 Rings,” its hook from “The Sound of Music” classic “My Favorite Things” a humorous bit of incongruity to the graffiti-laden cotton-candy-colored Cadillac onstage.
Although Grande’s potent pipes effortlessly hit every complicated note, her girlish speaking voice was impossible to decipher. Then again, she really didn’t say much beyond rote chitchat such as, “Are you having fun?” and “How do you like our new jackets?”
From the disco ball twirler “Love Me Harder” – paired with the EDM rumble of “Breathin’” – to the orange-pulsing lights and driving rock edge of “The Light is Coming,” to the injection of James Bond sleekness into “Dangerous Woman,” the show maintained a steady energy.
Grande, meanwhile, has mastered the balance between projecting pop star coolness with a genuine appreciation of those who love her right back.
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