2018 was an explosive year in terms of career for Ariana Grande. Not only did she prove herself as an amazing vocalist multiple times, she also created iconic songs, clips and aesthetics and became a source of memes more times than one can count. It only seemed natural, then, that 2019 would follow the same tone with the Sweetener Tour. When I saw she was touring in the UK, I didn’t think twice and immediately bought my ticket with one of my best friends. It was costly; most of her dates were already sold-out and the prices kept rising on an almost hourly basis. So, was it worth it?
I won’t talk too much about the opening acts, starting with the dynamic duo Social House and followed by Ella Mai and her band, both were very entertaining, but it was very obvious that everyone was impatient to see the main act.
After a while of waiting, which seemed like an eternity, the lights went off, a thrill ran through the crowd and Ariana’s voice suddenly invaded the O2.
A Capella, she beautifully started with Raindrops. A moment after, the lights revealed the iconic table scene of God is a Woman, the same she performed at the VMAs in 2018: Ariana surrounded by her dancers in a scenic rendition of The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci. Her voice is very impressive live. Not that it came as a surprise, her recorded live performances have always wowed me, but it is something else to hear it when you are in the same room. For that alone, I feel like I got the value out of my purchase.
She then went on to perform several less popular songs from her Sweetener album and I started paying more attention to the rest of the scene. It’s worth emphasising how well-put together this show is. From the dancers, to the lights and backgrounds (often space themed and with beautiful 3D effects), there are lots of visual elements to enjoy. And in case you were afraid the show would feel too artificial and manufactured, in between songs you will see some videos of Ariana as a child, with her family, some personal life moments, all of which helped to give a more intimate aspect to the show. That, and the fact that she seems to have a very friendly relationship with her dancers and crew, means for a feeling that makes it feel like you are sharing a good moment with them all. The more iconic parts shortly followed in the form of live rendition of her most popular songs, such as 7 Rings, Love me Harder, Breathin, Into You, Dangerous Woman and No Tears Left to Cry. In a weird way, it feels like an achievement to finally hear the live versions those songs compared to the many times you’ve heard them on the radio before.
I loved that so much focus was given to details, such as the little rings we were given before the start of the concert that were lighting up in rhythm with the music, the colours aesthetic of which matched each song.
The grand finale came in the form of Thank U, Next and to be completely honest, this is probably the song I was most excited for. Not for the vocal performance, nor for the meme (although I’ll admit it did play a big part), but because it felt like being “part of it.” You see, part of the reason Ariana had such a breakthrough is because she felt relatable through her personal life. When she accepted the Billboard Award for Woman of the Year and described 2018 as the “best year of her career and the worst of her life,” she also added “if you’re someone out there who has no idea what this next chapter is going to bring, you’re not alone in that.”
“Seeing her live was a great way to celebrate the end of a chapter”
That, for me, is where Grande’s magic recipe lies; she makes you feel like you are not alone. It’s clearly a conscious will of hers to make everyone feel accepted as she dances with LGBTQ+ flags at the end of the show. Ariana involuntarily became an icon for people going through heartbreaks, loss, identity crisis and overall confusion. And maybe that’s the real reason I wanted to see her live. As cheesy as it might and will sound, watching this performance felt like it was a good way to celebrate closing a chapter and really say thank u, next. And I sincerely hope, if you get the chance to see her, that you will be able to relate to it in the same way I did.