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Concert Reviews:
Ariana Grande's big Honeymoon at Joe Louis Arena
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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DETROIT -- Ariana Grande is in the midst of what she's calling her Honeymoon Tour of North America. But the 21-year-old singer's stop on Saturday night, March 7, at Joe Louis Arena showed that Grande's relationship with her audience is well established and entrenched, even just two albums into her recording career.

A near-sellout crowd -- whose very young, female-dominated demographic could just has easily been at Sesame Street Live as at this concert -- greeted Grande with the piercing screams reserved for the upper echelon of boy bands and superstar pop divas. They had a little extra to scream for, too, on Saturday; Grande was joined on stage by boyfriend Big Sean for not one but two songs -- "Best Mistake" and "Right There," sharing some PDA and a kiss during the latter.

It was the Detroit rapper's first home town appearance since the release of his third album, "Dark Sky Paradise," and its No. 1 debut on the Billboard 200 earlier in the week, but he made sure everyone knew who the show belonged to, shouting, "Make some more noise for my girl Ariana Grande, y'all!"

Over the course of 90 minutes and 18 songs -- the vast majority drawn from her 2014 sophomore album, "My Everything" -- Grande made a convincing case to be worthy of that noise and deserving of her pop star status, covering all the bases for diva concert spectacle -- albeit without any dancing palm trees or Left Sharks...

Elaborate production? Check -- on a four-level stage decked out with hydraulic lifts, a massive video screen and plenty of pyrotechnics.

Equally elaborate choreography? You betcha, with a troupe of 10 dancers executing elaborately staged routines around Grande throughout the night.

Costume changes? Eight different looks, some midriff-baring and many making Grande look exceptionally leggy and much more mature than her last metro area visit, during August of 2013 at the Royal Oak Music Theatre.

Video cameos? Certainly, with virtual appearances by Childish Gambino ("Break Your Heart Right Back"), Mac Miller ("The Way") and Iggy Azalea ("Problem").

Airborne stunts? Grande rode a cloud-shaped platform above the stage during "Best Mistake," and a chandelier for the beginning of "Right There."

A merchandising gimmick? The trademark cat ears Grande sold to fans were lit up by remote control throughout the night after they downloaded a special app.

Confetti? Of course -- on three different occasions during the show.

Cute-guy opening band: That would be Britain's Rixton, whose debut album came out this week (and was prominently advertised on the video screen during it set) while lead singer Jake Roche directed the crowd in making a 50th birthday video for his mother, singer Coleen Nolan.

Grande also put her singing chops on display during the night, hewing closer to the Mariah/Christina mold than, say, Katy or Beyonce. Though the backing vocals were disconcertingly pre-recorded, she more than held her own on top of a seven-piece band -- featuring three string players and Detroit guitarist Andrew Frappier -- particularly on torchier tunes such as "Tattooed Heart," "Why Try," "My Everything" and "Just a Little Bit." And while she wasn't quite a powerhouse, Grande still held the high ground when things torqued up on "One Last Time," "Love Me Harder," "Honeymoon Avenue" and "Break Free."

For a big arena show novice, Grande acquitted herself in fine fashion on Saturday. And she left the stage assured that the honeymoon with her cat ears-wearing fans in Detroit is far from over.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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