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Ariana Grande delivers a grand spectacle at Independence Events Center (with fan reaction)

Ariana Grande performed at the 2014 Much Music Video Awards in Toronto in this file photo.
Ariana Grande performed at the 2014 Much Music Video Awards in Toronto in this file photo. File photo

With much flash and flair, Ariana Grande opened her Honeymoon Tour in Independence on Wednesday night.

The show at the sold-out Independence Events Center was an extravagant mix of music, dance, lasers, videos, pyrotechnics and costume changes, akin to the kinds of audio-visual spectacles delivered by fellow pop-divas like Katy Perry and Britney Spears.

Grande, a former Nickelodeon star, brought with her a live seven-piece band (including a three-piece string section), a small legion of dancers and an emcee. On the large video screen behind her band, she was also joined several times by collaborators like Iggy Azalea, Big Sean and Childish Gambino.

The show opened with “Bang Bang,” the Jesse J single that featured vocals by Grande and Nicki Minaj, and it immediately set the tone: Flashpots, acrobatic dancing, video footage and other visuals started a torrent of screams and singing among a crowd of 5,000 or so — mostly teens and pre-teens — that didn’t sit down all night.

Next came “Hands on Me,” which began with a short overture from her string section and included virtual guest vocals from A$AP Ferg. For “Best Mistake,” Grande rode a cloud-shaped platform high above the crowd as the video screens broadcast images of clouds in motion. For “Break Your Heart Right Back,” the cloud was lowered and she was joined on the cloud by a few of her dancers, as a gust of fog wafted across the stage.

Before “Right There,” a large spangly chandelier was lowered, and her dancers appeared in tuxedos and what looked like roaring ’20s/flapper costumes and Grande joined them, a boa wrapped around her. The first blizzard of confetti came early, during “The Way,” which aroused one of many feverish sing-alongs.

So it went all night. Grande admitted being nervous and “terrified — but in a good way” but it didn’t show. Throughout the set, she thanked her fans for showing up. A few times, she shook hands or greeted fans.

The momentum slowed only once: when Imogene Heap appeared on the big video screen and launched an infomercial on the gloves she designed for Grande. They are wired to electronically alter Grande’s voice and produce other effects. Grande then re-appeared and demonstrated the gloves during “Why Try.”

Grande paid tribute to her grandfather by playing a recording of him telling her to persevere and pursue her music dreams, no matter what others tell her. It ended with her grandmother asking him what she should do about the Internet. He responded: “Stay the hell off it.” Then, sitting atop a white grand piano as the video screen showed a series of snowscapes, Grande sang the ballad “My Everything.”

The sound was an issue at times, mostly due to high volume. During a few songs, it was so loud her voice was hard to hear over the music and other noise and lyrics were hard to decipher. None of that mattered much to her fans, most of whom seemed to know every word to every song.

The show ended with a flurry of sights and sounds: “Honeymoon Avenue” included another eruption of flashpots and aroused one of the louder sing-alongs of the evening. “Break Free,” which included a dazzling laser display, sustained the momentum.

Grande brought it home with “Problem,” featuring the final guest via video, Azalea. As four large cannons showered the crowd on the floor with another storm of confetti, she and her entourage sang and danced and performed with energy and enthusiasm, not only as if it were the first time, but as if it might have been the last. If any hype preceded this tour, it lived up to it.

To reach Timothy Finn, call 816-234-4781 or send email to Follow the Back to Rockville blog on Twitter @kcstarrockville.


Bang Bang; Hands on Me; Best Mistake; Break Your Heart Right Back; Be My Baby; Right There; The Way; Pink Champagne; Tattooed Heart; One Last Time; Why Try; My Everything; Love Me Harder; All My Love; Honeymoon Avenue; Break Free; Problem.