August 18, 2019
O2 Arena, LondonGrande’s vocals are given the spotlight in a show that’s refreshingly understated ... for a gig involving a neon limousine, cascading bank notes and a re-creation of The Last Supper
Ariana Grande review – crowd-pleasing anthems of female resilience
Ariana Grande first appears at the centre of a tableau of dancers based on Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper – albeit a last supper at which the diners suddenly start climbing on the table, waving their thong-clad bums in the air and pretending to cop off with each other. It’s both a striking opening and an anomaly, a rare moment of visual spectacle in a show that feels remarkably understated and restrained. Of course, such things are relative: it’s as subtle as any gig that involves a neon-pink limousine rising up through the stage while fake bank notes rain down on fans who’ve shelled out real cash – the best part of £250 – to stand in the front rows can be. But, by arena-sized pop standards, the Sweetener tour is pretty much the last word in discretion. No relentless son-et-lumière bombardment, no eye-popping special effects, just a couple of giant globes on to which tasteful footage of the sun and night sky is projected. Even the stage-side screens are of a reasonable size.
Attention is focused on Grande herself, which is quite a gamble. As pop stars go, she’s not a particularly charismatic figure. It’s something she’s been smart enough to paper over with a series of easily identifiable and copyable looks, an old trick that has been largely forgotten in pop’s latterday stampede towards girl/boy-next-door “relatability”. Tonight, though the rabbit ears that were once her trademark are long gone, the high ponytail is more immense than ever and her fans scream every time she flicks it with her fingers.
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