This evening was an attempt to give they young girls and the adults who brought them their money worth via quantity. Two opening acts for the star of the evening. First was Victoria Monet (apparently she has co-written a bunch of songs with the headliner), a complete unknown to me. Her brief 20 minute set with filled with forgettable dance music. Next up was the U.K.’s latest girl band, Little Mix. Massive in Europe, but relegated to show openers in North America, the winners of the 2011 British X Factor singing competition brought plenty of harmonies, gyrations and hit songs like “Shout Out to My Ex”, “Salute”, “Black Magic”, “Hair”, and “Secret Love Song”. It was the loudest I had heard a Montreal crowd cheer for an opening act in a very long time. They truly performed their duty of crowd warmer.
It has been about three years since Ariana Grande introduced herself in a big way to the pop world and she has matured plenty since the days of “Problem” and “Break Free”. As a person as an artist. That despite the fact that her primary fan base, young girls, still comes to her concerts in cat ears. The former child star has put those days behind her is now a young woman who is carving out who she wants to be in front of millions of eyes. She is confident has a certain inoffensive swagger that she backs up with huge vocal ability.
That newfound maturity was also apparent in the simplicity of the set and accoutrements The stage was huge and white but stark and instead of the usual large screens the entire back of the stage (the width of the hockey rink) was a white curtain which images/videos were projected on. Though there were plenty of lights it was the usual young pop princess evening of pyrotechnics. Even the 4-piece band did not make an appearance onstage in front of the giant curtain until we were 40 minutes into Grande’s set.
A plus side was the fact that she is not allowing others to decide who she is. Most recently she came out with a side door kind of feminist stance about being seen as an object and owning her sexuality. That sexuality and how she wanted to project was on full display on a rainy Montreal night. Very few young women of her age have that sort of confidence and self-awareness. Proved that you can wear thigh high stilettos and still be taking seriously. Also that you don’t have to show tons of skin to be sexy.
On the downside and showing that she is still young (23-years-old) her selected setlist reeked of trying too hard to be taken seriously by piling on ballad after well-sung ballad after another. Still trying a little too desperately to shed the child star label by doing “serious” music. But who is she kidding the strongest contribution she makes to the music world is the fun and dance oriented hits like “Side to Side”, “Into Me” and “One Last Time”. It was during these songs in which her young crowd was able to dance and shriek their pleasure the loudest. For my money (though I am obviously not her target audience) her decision to slow down her first big hit “Problem” was done in error. It was the equivalent to letting all the air out of the many large pink balloons that were dropped from the ceiling earlier.
That being said the highlight of the show was her soaring soprano. Strong enough to be heard over the thousands of girls singing along, it never becomes shrill. She was also in complete control of her instrument at all times. Again another indication of her professionalism and dedication to her craft. The lady certainly works hard.