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Five thoughts: Ariana Grande at MGM Grand Garden Arena (February 4)

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Ariana Grande, performing February 4 at MGM Grand Garden Arena.
MGM Resorts International
Ian Caramanzana

1. Walking in, it’s tough to pinpoint a demographic for this concert. Of course, tweens and children sporting Grande’s beloved bunny-ear headbands are in attendance (with their parents), but so are middle-aged couples, older gents in suits and younger groups dressed like it’s a hot nightclub pregame event. Could this be a testament to Grande’s songwriting prowess, or simply proof that pop-music’s reach is incredibly wide and ever changing? Perhaps both.

2. Seeing Grande on the Dangerous Woman Tour means witnessing an artist in transition. Ten minutes before the 23-year-old takes the stage, house lights dim and fans are treated to a countdown timer and video that debuts a more mature look for the pop star (the new look returns later in a bold, feminist-centric video). Song-wise, the ex-Nickelodeon star performs the entirety of 2016 album Dangerous Woman, with previous singles sprinkled in. There are twists, however: Grande ditches the driving rhythms of hits like “Break Free” and “Problem” for downtempo, restrained renditions. Maybe this is a sign of things to come.

3. Grande might have the most varied, malleable backup dancers in the pop game. The dozen or so (literally) flex their muscles by riding on stationary bikes, doing push-ups and rhythmically punching boxing bags during “Side to Side,” poping-and-locking to match the hip-hop swagger of “Bad Decisions” and vogue with vigor for “Be Alright.” The latter—a homage to house music’s shuffling hi-hats and groovy bounce—is among the night’s highlights, with Grande seamlessly switching from singing melodies and harmonies between dance breaks. Paradise might be one street over, but Grande and company brought Paradise Garage to the Strip.

4. Like a true diva, Grande drinks her bottled water through a straw. Of course.

5. Grande’s burly, soulful vibrato and wide range remain the star of her show, and she’s at her best when it’s just her, a microphone and her band—especially when she performs such ballads as the Nina Simone-inspired “Leave Me Lonely” and slow burner, “Moonlight.” She even gives Frank Ocean’s piano-heavy “Pink + White” a soulful rendition. We can only hope a collaboration is in the works.

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