For the cost of the ticket, there were high expectations for Ariana Grande’s concert. The show, set at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York, was the first of the third leg of her “Sweetener” World Tour.
Throughout her tour, Grande teamed up with HeadCount, a non-profit organization that registers voters at concerts. According to their website, HeadCount has registered over 600,000 voters since 2004 and, according to cnbc.org, “Grande’s ‘Sweetener’ tour is the most successful solo artist tour HeadCount has seen since 2008.”
Grande has been vocal about her “thank u, next gen” campaign and getting one’s voice heard in politics, and overall empowerment. At the HeadCount booth at Grande’s concert, fans who are 17 and older could register to vote while younger fans could “pledge” to vote, signing up to receive a text on their 18th birthday reminding them to register.
The night started off disappointing and progressively frustrating, as the concert was scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. but the opening group, Social House, started nearly an hour late.
The majority of Grande’s setlist contained songs from her latest three albums, with little to none from her first two. The sound of these albums are distinctly different, more mature, and more R&B-sounding than her first, so focusing on them showed Grande’s maturity, authenticity, and growth.
Her unique stage design consisted of a walkway extending from the stage and circling the pit. This design allowed for Grande to get close and interact with her fans in the pit while engaging those in the higher levels. It also allowed for some interesting and up-close choreography. She played song after song, with hardly any breaks in between, so there was not much banter with the audience. Despite her lack of conversation, the concert was very interactive and inclusive for the fans, as she encouraged audience participation in many songs and walked around the pit, keeping everyone entertained.
The show was sprinkled with interludes, giving Grande time to disappear backstage for costume changes. They were random and hard to hear, mostly involving home videos and montages of her and her friends, but kept fans occupied nevertheless. Grande changed outfits five times, each reflecting the mood of the songs that followed. From a sparkly white outfit topped with reindeer antlers during the Christmas songs to a sleek and revealing black two-piece during “Dangerous Woman,” each outfit was stunning and perfectly chosen.
Her radio hits, specifically “thank u, next” and “7 Rings,” sparked the most energy from the audience.
The concert had an overall positive energy to it, as Grande often sang lyrics of comfort or empowerment. She radiated confidence on stage, which spread to the audience as she encouraged self-love and acceptance. Grande’s song “breathin”, which is a fan favorite, specifically addresses an issue that is very prominent today: mental health.
“[The song] expands upon anxiety and explains how to calm yourself, or how others can help you compose yourself. [It] makes feelings that are not generally spoken about recognized and acceptable to have. The song makes people feel as if they share a situation in common [with Grande]. That is the beauty of it,” Marijke ChandraRaj (’20) said.
The comforting and universal message expressed in “breathin” evoked an emotional response from the audience and made it one of the favorite songs to hear live.
To celebrate the upcoming Christmas season, Grande performed a medley of five of her Christmas songs, during which she threw gifts into the pit. These gifts, as revealed through social media posts, contained handwritten notes, gift cards, or Tiffany earrings. In the middle of these songs, a large sphere, similar to the New Years Eve ball in Times Square, lowered over the pit. This ball had designs projected on it, transforming it into both the moon and the earth at separate times. Grande spread even more Christmas cheer as blue and white confetti fluttered over the ground floor, as if it was snowing. It was a beautiful sight, and we were instantly transported to our own winter wonderland. Despite all this, her Christmas songs received the least amount of energy from fans, as the songs are not very well-known.
The choreography of this show was incredible. Every song had a story to tell and a unique dance that was very well executed by both Grande and her backup dancers. Grande also added vocal runs and note changes to every song, heightening the concert experience and giving it a special depth that is not found in her studio albums.
Grande played for nearly an hour and a half, but the time flew by. After saying her goodbyes and leaving the stage, fans chanted Grande’s name and she returned for an encore performance of her title track, “thank u, next,” complete with the Christmas outfits and choreography from her music video.
Overall, Grande was worth every penny; with a voice like hers, it is hard to disappoint. The concert as a whole was a visual experience, from a car rising from the stage during “7 Rings” to her singing “Winter Things” under the moon. There were many surprises and it was definitely an unforgettable experience.
Photos by Allison McSally / Staff Writer.