Ariana Grande is still in her early 20s, but she is poised to become a pop queen. Three albums into her career, Grande is already filling arenas, or nearly filling them, which is what she did at the Sprint Center on Saturday night.
For nearly 90 minutes, Grande, her four-piece band and a small army of dancers filled the arena with nonstop music and motion, a barrage of visuals and sounds that at times threatened to overwhelm Grande and her powerful voice.
Grande is touring off “Dangerous Woman,” her third album, released in May, and she would perform nearly all of its 11 tracks, a few times with some imported assistance. Future made a video appearance on “Everyday”; Nicki Minaj did the same on “Side to Side.”
Her songs tend to be straightforward pop/R&B, a platform for her voice, which has no trouble reaching the rafters of an arena, rather than a means to explore new music terrain. Thus, over the course of 90 minutes and nearly two dozen songs, a sameness started to set in.
She would change wardrobe several times, each time emerging in an extravagant gown and long stiletto heels that did not prevent her from marauding the large stage or joining her dancers in some rudimentary choreography.
The lighting was curiously dark for much of the show, shrouding Grande in shadows or muted red or blue hues. Heavy gusts of fog added to the mood during a few songs, like “Leave Me Lonely,” but there were also festive showers of confetti and balloons during others.
Grande portrays herself as a strong woman/feminist, one who will not just express what she wants but pursue it, as well: During the “Female” interlude, the large video screen broadcast images of Grande with words and phrases like “not asking for it,” “raw,” “soulful,” “divine” and, finally, “female.”
But she can be implicitly sexual, too, as in songs like “Touch It” or “Love Me Harder,” which includes lyrics like “If in the moment I bite my lip / Baby in that moment you’ll know this is / Something bigger than us and beyond bliss.”
The predominantly female crowd showed familiarity with nearly every song, but gave hits from her previous two albums the loudest ovations and sing-alongs, like “Bang Bang,” “One Last Time,” “Break Free” and “Problem.”
Grande, a former Nickelodeon star, has a voice that befits her surname. For sheer might and agility, it’s up there with Mariah Carey’s and Celine Dion’s. But she showed she can also harness it for tender ballads, like “I Don’t Care.” At times, though, the brash, bass-heavy music around her nearly overwhelmed her voice, even when she was reaching for the rafters.
She ended the show with much fanfare: With flash pots flaring around her, she unleashed the title track to “Dangerous Woman,” a song with lyrics not suitable for the many grade-schoolers and pre-teens in the place – “Skin-to-skin, oh, my God … Something about you makes me feel like a dangerous woman.” It’s a song that should further distance her from her Nickelodeon and teen-idol days but also position her to join the elite ranks of pop divas.
Set list: Be Alright; Everyday; Bad Decisions; Let Me Love You; Interlude; Knew Better Part II; Forever Boy; One Last Time; Touch It; Leave Me Lonely; Female (interlude); Side to Side; Bang Bang; Greedy; I Don’t Care; Moonlight; Love Me Harder; Break Free; Sometimes; Thinking About You; Problem. Encore: Dangerous Woman.