Friday, March 6, 2015

The Honeymoon Tour | Ariana Grande with Cashmere Cat


★★★★☆

"C'mon, Cleveland, lemme hear you!" she screamed. Ariana Grande had not even faced her audience in the Quicken Loans Arena as she prepared to sing her opening number, yet she had captured the attention of every soul in the building. Her audience of loving Arianators, many of which have been by her side since her days at Nickelodeon, had spent the past 90 minutes in suspense for this moment.

Before Grande's grand debut, we were offered a 30-minute set from disc jockey and producer Cashmere Cat. While he could have caught the attention of the entire arena with his club mix, the shaggy-haired feline failed to market himself appropriately; six dim spotlights shone down on him as he swayed and stared down at his equipment. No fancy light shows, no audience interaction, no stage presence. He delivered some intriguing beats, but most audience members found their phones to be more interesting. 

Another opening time slot was originally set to be filled by boy band Rixton, who never showed up. To fill the void, the venue opted to play a combination of today's biggest pop hits through the loudspeakers. In the mix was Nicki Minaj's "Anaconda," to which one middle-aged woman gave a lap dance in the audience. At the end of her impromptu routine, the entire audience had fixated on her and granted her a monstrous round of applause. Yes, the audience deemed the risqué lap dance lady more worthy of our praise than Cashmere Cat.

However, Cashmere Cat and the "Anaconda" lap-dancer were not who the audience came to see. As Ariana turned to face her audience for the first time with a solo rendition of her hit with Jessie J and Nicki Minaj, "Bang Bang," the crowd went berserk. For the next 90 minutes, they would scream with delight at her every move; nothing that Grande did that night went unnoticed. Even as she mindlessly toyed around on stage with the Imogen Heap-created Mi.Mu gloves, which shove a user's voice through a vocoder and change pitch based on hand movements, her fans cried with joy.

From the fan-favorite "Honeymoon Avenue" to the colossal hit "Break Free," Grande chose the set list with a wise hand. Her time on stage was supplemented with a three-tiered stage that illuminated with visuals, recorded cameos from featured rappers, and majestic entrances to the stage atop clouds and chandeliers. Yet, her most intimate performances of the night spared the gimmicks; she sat teary-eyed on a white grand piano when she sang "My Everything" as a tribute to her late grandfather, and her voice truly shined as she stood solo on stage during "Tattooed Heart."

Grande's vocal power is undeniable; she hit each and every jaw-dropping high note with ease, ad-libbing over half of her tracks to save herself from dreaded lip-syncing rumors. While not completely comfortable in such a large venue, Grande has clearly become less vulnerable on her pedestal. While she and her gaggle of back-up dancers electrified the arena, the thousands of fans that roared with excitement seemed to hold the morale of our tiny songstress high through the show. The pinnacle of Grande's recent success, "Problem," caused outcries that drowned out the song itself as she pushed out the highest squeals of the song.

With some growth as a performer and maintenance of that four-octave voice, The Honeymoon Tour surely will not be the last that we see of Ariana Grande. As the name of the tour suggests, it's only the beginning of the road for Grande, with a lifetime supply of show-stopping performances just waiting to happen.

The Honeymoon Tour will continue in North America through April. The tour's European leg will kick off in May. Tickets for remaining shows can be found via Ticketmaster.




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