The lights dimmed and the crowd erupted with cheers and applause. After much anticipation from fans of all ages, bags full of freshly bought merch in hand, Ariana Grande was set to finally take the stage.
The May 14 show at Talking Stick Resort Arena, which featured support from Normani and Social House, marked Grande’s first Valley jaunt since February 2017.
This time supporting two new albums — “sweetener” and “thank u, next” — Grande packed plenty for fans to fawn over into her 90-plus minute “Sweetener World Tour” set — beginning with the visuals.
As the massive backdrop was eclipsed with lunar imagery, Grande’s vocals — belting out “raindrops (an angel cried)” — filled the air around 9:30 p.m.
Grande and her dancers were then raised from beneath the stage on a table, frozen in a Last Supper pose, as they fittingly kicked things into gear with one of Grande’s — and last summer’s — biggest hits, “God is a woman.”
This was followed by this year’s “bad idea” and “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored.” During the latter, Grande and her dancers ventured out into the crowd via a walkway.
The concert was essentially divided into acts, each separated by some sort of audio-visual clip.
After the first intermission, which was marked by a childhood home video of Grande, the pop singer reemerged in a new outfit to perform “R.E.M” while waterfall-like imagery was projected behind her.
After performing that track by herself, she was rejoined by her dancers — who rotated throughout the set — for 2016’s “Be Alright.”
But as her performance was lengthy, Grande managed to fit as many songs as possible into the setlist with the inclusion of several medleys, the first of which featured the self-titled track from last year’s “sweetener,” and then “successful.”
Grande spent much of “Side to Side” and “bloodline” on the walkway through the crowd. Then, she and her dancers threw on pink jackets emblazoned with graffiti, while a pink, similarly decorated car was lifted from beneath the stage for “7 rings.”
Another intermission was marked with crystal ball visuals set to a recording of an autotune-laden cover of Frank Ocean’s “Close to You.”
When Grande returned, she had once again donned a new outfit, and she kicked things back into gear with a back-to-back performance of “Love Me Harder” and “breathin,” the former of which originally features The Weeknd.
Recent cuts “needy,” “fake smile” and “make up” followed, after which Grande looked further back in her career for a medley of “Right There,” originally featuring Big Sean; “You’ll Never Know” and “Break Your Heart Right Back,” the latter of which originally features Childish Gambino.
“NASA” was complimented with imagery of space, while Grande sang from the edge of the walkway, and on the highly personal “get well soon,” she concluded from the center of the pit.
Shortly thereafter, Grande performed — in another new outfit — excerpts of “everytime,” “the light is coming” and “Into You,” book ended with intermission videos for this year’s “in my head” and a cover of Marilyn Monroe’s “My Heart Belongs to Daddy.”
And after the Monroe cover, Grande returned in yet another new outfit to deliver the penultimate segment of the evening, which included “Dangerous Woman,” “Break Free” and “no tears left to cry.”
The true conclusion, however, came via arguably her biggest, most inescapable single yet: “thank u, next.” Grande propelled into the song with a video compilation of tweets, articles and pictures. Then, she and her dancers took the stage in an arrangement similar to her “Ellen DeGeneres Show” performance of the song late last year, before they took one last journey across the walkway.
Although the tour’s reception has seemed to be mixed in areas of the internet, that wasn’t apparent at the show, during which many fans sang along, and maintained a steady sense of enthusiasm.
And while the presentation wasn’t overly lavish, for the most part with just a rotating cast of dancers, some changing visuals and a handful of varying outfits, fans seemed satisfied with the show, which put Grande’s vocals on full display.
raindrops (an angel cried)
God is a woman
break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored
sweetener / successful
Side to Side
Love Me Harder / breathin
Right There / You’ll Never Know / Break Your Heart Right Back
get well soon
the light is coming
no tears left to cry
thank u, next
Photo courtesy Getty/Kevin Mazur.