I was skeptical about attending an Ariana Grande concert. After the “Donutgate” scandal, I wasn’t sure what to expect from her homecoming show. I braced myself as I stepped into the packed BB&T Center in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday night.
Skinny preteen boys and girls romped around in short shorts, crop tops, and Grande gear, including shirts emblazoned with “Head in the Clouds,” one of the lyrics from her hit “Problem.” Plenty of dads and moms escorted their young Arianators. At 8:40, as if on cue, cat ears on thousands of fans lit up at once, and high-pitched screams clamored together as the tiny songstress’ pixie-like face showed up on the big screen.
“What’s good, Florida?” she yelled to her fans before launching into "Hands on Me."
What really started to sell me was her spirited mashup of "I'm Every Woman" and "Vogue." Maybe Ms. Grande was up to the live-music test.
Although she may not be the next Mariah Carey, Grande's singing chops were impressive. A string trio, virtuoso guitarist, and live drummer accompanied many of her tunes, along with stunning visuals. While singing "Why Try," Grande put to use Imogen Heap's much-talked-about MiMu gloves, which turned her arms and hands into mini MIDI controllers for vocal modulations. These caused plenty of wub-wub for all to enjoy.
Although her fame has expanded, she stayed true to her Boca roots Saturday night. Before singing “My Everything,” an audio clip of her beloved Grandpa Grande played, encouraging her to pursue her musical dreams and “Don’t let them challenge you, don’t let them intimidate you.” It was a bittersweet moment, and my skepticism softened a bit. She began tearing up as she exclaimed how excited she was to be back home, and her loyal fans cheered back in support. She also gave a sweet shoutout to her "Nonna," who was sitting in the audience along with several members of her family. Her half-brother, pink-haired YouTube personality Frankie Grande, even ended up riling up the crowd onstage before she performed “Problem,” her final song, to thunderous applause.
Ariana Grande’s homecoming show was everything you’d want in a pop concert: stunning costumes, backup dancers who interacted with the crowd, and flames shooting from the stage. I'm amazed she was able to prance around in glittered four-inch heels. I was also surprised that the concert ended at 10:30, but I guess all those kids can’t be staying out too late.
As I walked out of the arena, I came to a satisfying conclusion: Grande’s fans don’t care about a few licked doughnuts. They’re going to stand behind her no matter what 20-something antics she pulls. I can respect the fact that she knows how to be a pop star and give her fans what they want while not forgetting who inspired her.