The pop star brought her reigning 'Sweetener Tour' to an appreciative, sold-out LCA crowd on Friday night


Armed with an arsenal of bops, Ariana Grande played to a sold-out Little Caesars Arena Friday night, sliding through 95 minutes of nearly non-stop hip-hop inflected dance pop with the ease of a hot knife cutting through a stick of butter.  

Grande, the 25-year-old former Nickelodeon kid, is currently sitting pretty on top of the pop world. She's released two No. 1 albums in the past eight months, August's "Sweetener" and February's "thank u, next," the latter of which earned her the first two No. 1 singles of her career.

During one week in February, Grande laid claim to the top 3 singles on Billboard's Hot 100 chart, the first time any artist has achieved that feat since The Beatles did it 55 years ago.    

This is clearly Grande's moment, and Friday night's show comes just a week before the biggest show of her career, headlining this year's Coachella Festival.

But if she's already laser-focused on her triumph in the desert, she didn't show it, delivering her 25-song set with moxie and precision, even if it was lacking in heart.

Grande is a slick pop perfectionist, cool to the touch, and not one to open up about what's on her mind. She offered plenty of "thank you, Detroit"-style banter on Friday, but nothing any deeper or more personal.

She kept things professional, nailing her choreography and delivering stunning live vocals throughout the evening. Even the show's slip-ups — she laughed off a dancer's gaffe and an awkward moment where an audience member caught her eye — rolled right off of her.

Opener "God is a Woman" was the evening's most elaborate set piece, staged to resemble the Last Supper, with Grande and her dancers arranged at a long table in the style of da Vinci's painting.

It made for a bold, striking visual, but nothing that followed picked up on the theme or the narrative set forth in that moment. 

The rest of the show, Grande and her dozen-odd dancers traipsed the circular ring laid out in front of the stage, and Grande performed several songs alone on a small stage situated inside the general admission pit area in the center of the ring, surrounded by fans holding cameras.

Songs from "thank u, next," her fifth studio set, were mixed in with "Sweetener" songs and other highlights from her six-year recording career, though reception to the latter material — especially "break up with your girlfriend, i'm bored," "7 rings" and "NASA," all from her latest — resonated deepest with her largely late-teenage and mostly female fans.

It wouldn't be a pop show without costume changes, and Grande went through several, favoring monochrome outfits accented by parka-style jackets with one arm left dangling.

Flowing visuals were projected onto a large backdrop with a half-sphere at the center, although for a large-scale modern pop production, the staging was kept rather simple. There were no high-wire maneuvers, trips to the back of the arena, acrobatics or big ticket gags; even the confetti cannons, a staple of modern arena spectacles, were left at home. 

What was left was a superstar singer, firmly in her element, owning the stage and making it look easy.

By the time she closed with "thank u, next," her ode to ex-boyfriends which doubles as an anthem of self-empowerment, she'd already won the crowd and the night. All that was left was to say "thank u, next" as Grande moves on to the next step of her pop domination.


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