Ariana Grande Brings Her Surreal Sweetener Tour Pop Fantasy Home to NYC (REVIEW)
Ariana Grande delivered a dazzling yet elegant, minimalist pop spectacle at Madison Square Garden in New York City on June 19, where the petite pop powerhouse's mighty vocals and sleek style took center stage.
Grande, known for her signature chic yet low-key style, opted the omit the typical clanging bells and whistles of similar big pop tours — overpowering costumes, complicated set pieces, sometimes garish visuals and pyrotechnics — for a slightly more intimate, yet no less immersive concert experience, rounded out by striking visual elements like a glowing full moon ("NASA"), pink vintage car ("7 rings") and sharp umbrella choreography ("No Tears Left to Cry").
Following a double opening set by Social House and Normani, the superstar took the stage around 9:30 PM. Singing "God Is a Woman" (accompanied by a choreographed piece similar to her 2018 MTV VMAs performance), Grande kicked off her mammoth two-hour set — which included an offstage "raindrops (an angel cried)" intro and several charming home video interludes, as well as an anecdote about New York being her "favorite city in the world" — on an empowering note that set the mood for the evening. The night ultimately served as a celebration of self-power, self-love and resilience.
The stage was a stunning futuristic pop-R&B dreamscape bathed in pastels and the occasional neon glow, as a giant suspended half-orb screen provided a visually surreal yet practical backdrop that never overshadowed Grande or her energetic dancers. Grande changed costumes frequently between acts, though her hyper-feminine high-ponytail, thigh-high boots combo remained a staple throughout the evening's glittery wardrobe cycle. (One particular powder pink, cream puff angel wing-sleeved sartorial confection was an eye-candy standout, while a Clueless-inspired two-piece offered a sweet little nostalgic nod during the show's encore.)
As for the song selection, if there's one thing Grande's Manhattan Sweetener Tour stop made apparent about its star, it was the undeniable number of complete smashes she's delivered in the six years since making her studio album debut. From buoyant early hits ("Right There," "Break Your Heart Right Back") to edgy Dangerous Woman cuts ("Be Alright," "Side to Side") and Sweetener/thank u, next era career- and genre-shifters ("breathin," "7 rings"), the set list acted as a hit-by-hit guide to pop's coolest star's ever-evolving discography.
The concert even became a full-on party in the last half, when fans were treated to a three-punch assortment of dance-pop bangers: the venue-shattering "Into You"; "Dangerous Woman," which received a sultry, jazzier rework; and "Break Free," during which the stage was bathed in rainbow hues to celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride.
But radio hits, frothy costumes, sleek visuals and fierce dance breaks be damned: the true star of the concert was the performer's inimitable voice — an unrelenting musical instrument that, despite a reported bout with bronchitis, glided between angelic whistle notes and seductive coos and arena-filling power belting with measured ease. (At least, from the noticeably impressed audience's POV.)
And so, Grande danced, sang and catwalk-strutted (a mix of doll-like teetering and bad bitch sauntering) her way through more than two dozen songs, exhibiting a certain inarguable air of confidence, self-assured power and prowess as her adoring fans — a diverse all-ages mix that also included, much to my delight, a handful of Real Housewives of New York — reveled in her anthems of overcoming heartache and hardship.
By the time "No Tears..." rolled around during the bottom of the fifth act, I was, admittedly, a little misty-eyed; emotionally moved by the reminder of Grande's triumphs amid (very public) traumas over the past few years, and the minor parallels between her own tribulations and mine. While the show appropriately closed with a jubilant performance of "thank u, next," the singer's flashy ode to loving oneself and moving forward following heartbreak (and media scrutiny), it was "No Tears..." that truly summed up the artist's musical manifesto. The moment provided — as Grande sings on the bittersweet 2018 comeback single — a "state of mind I wanna be in, like, all the time."
Check out the full Sweetener Tour set list below, and click here to find out how you can get tickets to Ariana Grande's Sweetener Tour.
"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" (shortened)
"in my head"
"the light is coming" (shortened)
"Break Free" (shortened)
"No Tears Left to Cry"
"thank u, next"