After a pause to headline both weekends of Coachella—where she jammed with four-fifths of ’N Sync and coaxed Justin Bieber onstage to perform his hit “Sorry”—Ariana Grande is back in her sweet spot: headlining the Sweetener World Tour. Here are five reasons why you should consider springing for a ticket to the pop megastar’s show at T-Mobile Arena.
1. She’s at the top of her game. The pop star has always been prolific; in just six years, she has released five studio albums and been part of an impressive number of high-profile collaborations. Grande is in a particularly awe-inspiring groove right now, however. In the past year, she has released two full-lengths, 2018’s Sweetener and February’s Thank U, Next, both of which boast cohesive visions and little-to-no filler. Better still, both albums have pushed pop music forward by drawing on past golden ages—’80s R&B, ’90s hip-hop, ’00s electro—and giving them modern polish. Her creative confidence is off the charts, which helps make for a compelling live show.
2. The setlist is geared toward new fans, but doesn’t forget die-hard Arianators. Unsurprisingly, the Sweetener World Tour setlist is dominated by newer songs, from Sweetener and Thank U, Next, plus Grande’s equally excellent 2016 album, Dangerous Woman. Yet she also nods to her nascent pop days with a high-profile medley of older material: the hip-hop throwbacks “Right There” and “Break Your Heart Right Back,” and the sparkling, ’80s pop nod “You’ll Never Know.” The back-catalog tunes fit in seamlessly with the flow of the concert—and highlight the consistency of her output.
3. The show’s not about gimmicks. By nature, arena shows must be larger than life and contain massive multimedia bells and whistles to keep rafter-dwellers’ attention. But although Grande’s stage setup has some familiar accoutrements—an extended catwalk that encircles the audience, a smaller stage within the crowd, gigantic video projections and multiple costume changes—the music is always prioritized above gimmickry, which is refreshing.
4. The concert amplifies her strengths. The big-venue spectacle never overshadows the real stars of the show: Grande’s songs and voice. Her music is never consumed by the larger space; in fact, hearing her songs in such a massive venue illustrates their airtight arrangements and hooks. From the show’s start (surging a cappella opener “Raindrops (An Angel Cried)”) to its finish (a massive sing-along to the hit “Thank U, Next”), her vocals dip and soar with powerful performance gravitas and subtle dynamics.
5. The show is just plain fun. Many big-venue acts are so focused on running a tight ship and crafting a perfect show, they forget that concerts should be joyful communal experiences. Grande, however, is having a blast onstage. She and her dancers groove and skip around the stage and catwalk—singing together as if they were at a party blasting tunes, and amplifying the passion and emotion behind the music.
ARIANA GRANDE with Normani, Social House, May 11, 8 p.m., $35-$250, T-Mobile Arena, 702-692-1600.