Towards the end of Ariana Grande’s performance at the Vic Theater Wednesday, her manager, Scooter Braun, came onstage and interrupted the singer’s rendition of “God Is a Woman,” from Grande’s just released Sweetener (Republic Records) album. Bragging like a proud parent, Braun informed Grande that she had the number one song (“Woman”) from the number one album in the country. It also cemented what was readily apparent from the first note of the night – that following the horrific tragedy of the Manchester bombing incident at Grande’s show last year, right now is an excellent time for Ariana Grande.
The Vic show was one of three Sweetener Sessions performances, essentially album release shows held in intimate venues in Chicago, New York, and L.A. Over the course of an hour, Grande delivered a powerful and celebratory set, all while remaining laid back and stress-free onstage. Presented as a sort of audience request set, Grande repeatedly asked the audience which Sweetener song they wanted to hear next. How she managed to decipher the audience’s answers over the constant screams is anyone’s guess.
Backed by a live band, Grande moved between Sweetener’s moods at the audience’s request. With no screen visuals, props, or costume changes, the music – and of course, Grande’s showstopping vocal range – were front and center. Performances like the record’s title track and the empowerment anthem “Successful” both demonstrated a more soulful side of Grande’s vocal delivery, with the former providing an undeniable pop bounce. Alternately, “Goodnight n Go,” Grande’s reworking of Imogen Heap’s 2005 hit “Goodnight and Go,” delivered a warm and atmospheric dream pop ballad, while the massive “Breathin” could easily be a future set closer.
But it was 2018’s song of the summer, “No Tears Left to Cry” that eliminated any doubt that this moment is one of celebration for Grande, having turned real-world tragedy into pop catharsis. It’s unlikely the singer will get to do too many intimate sets like this anytime soon, with a genuine dialogue with the audience in a small room. Thankfully, Grande more than made use of the set-up at Wednesday night’s show. If the mood and performances at the Vic were any indications, the future for Grande should continue to be sweet, in stadium-sized venues.
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