by MIKE CHAIKEN
As I stood in the gargantuan line to get past the security check-point at the Mohegan Sun Arena for the March 30 Ariana Grande show, there were two teenage girls behind me talking about their tickets.
They were disappointed they couldn’t snag floor or first tier seats to see their favorite artist. But one consoled the other by saying, “At least we get to breathe the same air as Ariana.”
That tells you something about the passion of Grande’s fans + they were just glad to be there.
With such fan dedication, Grande’s primary job on the “Sweetener Tour simply could have been, “Do no harm.” She could have given a perfunctory performance of her hits and the fans likely would have been glad just to have taken a few selfies and cellphone shots to prove they were there.
But funny thing happened on the way to the Ariana Grande show, the star opted not to take it easy. Instead, Grande worked her butt off throughout the course of the show.
First of all, Grande kept the focus on her all night. The stage was 2019 state of the art with video screens, three-dimensional effects, and other accoutrements that I will leave unmentioned to provide fans with some elements of surprise.
Grande, however, never let the special effects overwhelm her performance. She was still the center of attention.
The stage itself was equipped with a catwalk that looped into the back of the floor and allowed a select group of fans to stand in the center.
The catwalk straight through the audience or looping around the audience isn’t unique to Grande. It seems to be the hot new stage trend.
But the artists I have seen have relegated a short moment at the beginning of the show and a more extended moment at the end of the show to utilize the stage extension.
Grande used the loops again and again to the delight of the fans throughout the night. And each time Grande ventured out onto the loop, she offered an explosive production number rather than a simple moment alone in a spotlight beside a singular microphone.
Simply put, Grande offered a three-dimensional concert experience. Every fan, no matter where they sat, could be close to their star.
The fans didn’t simply have to settle for breathing the same air as Grande.
Additionally, although, Grande went through several costume changes, she was never out of sight from her fans for more than a couple of bars. Some artists will use the costume changes to catch their breath. I’m not sure, given the swiftness of the changes, how much of a breath Grande was able to catch.
And when she stepped away to change, the huge screen offered up videos of Grande singing yet another song.
Also, Grande never stood still. She and her dancers were constantly in motion. And if she was onstage, she was singing.
This kind of show takes a lot of work. It’s not a straight-away ride across the Midwest in a Buick. It’s an Indy race through twists and turns in a Ferrari.
Of course, performance and stagecraft are only a few dimensions of a show. How was the music?
It was fab.
Grande now sits in that rarified class of divas such as Christine Aguilera, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, Janet Jackson, Madonna, and Mariah Carey. And within the super subset of pop stars, she sits among those with superb vocal chops.
Grande never backed off on her vocals. If it was on the record, she offered it up on stage.
The girl can sing.
And she has songs that fans can remember. I especially enjoyed the blasts of “Dangerous Woman” and “No Tears Left to Cry” as well as the smile-inducing “Side to Side” and “Break Up With Your Boyfriend, I’m Bored.”
As I scanned the crowd at the Mohegan, there were scads of young fans. Clearly, the show was their first ever concert.
Given that status, some of the fans probably have no perspective of what is or what is not a good show. So, as I said, Grande could have phoned it in and the fans still would have been smiling.
But, Grande clearly has a love and respect for her fans. She gave them a show that probably will spoil the next concert experience for them.
I imagine one of the fans turn to her parents at her next show and say, “Mom, Dad, they were good. But they weren’t as good as Ariana Grande.”
Grande showed she is a true performer who is determined to give her fans the best she’s got.