Ariana Grande generates loads of social media-fueled attention, from her brash fashion choices to her love life. Her break with fiancé/comedian Pete Davidson even fed the drop of mega-hit “Thank U, Next,” which led to the chart-topping album of the same name. But the onetime tween-TV actress has become today’s leading female pop singer on the strength of her music, set up through last year’s Grammy-winning Sweetener, a clear, cushiony showcase for her soaring voice.
So maybe it should be no surprise that the best thing about Grande’s Wednesday show at TD Garden (where she returns on June 22 after an April coronation as a Coachella headliner) was that astounding voice. Her vocals cut through the mix of other sonic and visual trappings in her nonetheless playful, eye-popping 95-minute set.
The focus on her voice was evident before Grande even appeared — in the dulcet a cappella ascension of “Raindrops (An Angel Cried)” before she and her dancers rose on a mid-stage platform to weave and roll through the Last Supper-like table choreography of “God is a Woman.” Grande and her troupe also took advantage of a pit-encircling runway, coupling off for a chair dance in “Break Up with Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored” and tossing baubles to the crowd in “Bloodline.” And she gracefully negotiated the flow despite her towering stiletto heels and cascading ponytail.
The staging was also augmented by star, sun and moon-simulating patterns on the orbs that lent striking backdrops to the routines. Grande and her dancers engaged the crowd, stretching and kneeling at the edges and tip of the runway – and even paraded through the pit onto another platform – to get closer to fans. A car also rose to the main stage in matching pink to their jackets as they danced to “7 Rings,” which led to the night’s most unexpected highlight. Grande had been accused of borrowing the cadence of that hit from Atlanta rapper 2 Chainz, who emerged to deliver “Run the World,” his newly released song that features Grande, and they proved seamless as live foils.
Yet Grande didn’t really need anyone to share the spotlight, summoning most of the set’s best performances as a frontwoman with just a four-piece band tucked to the rear stage corners. When the dancers took a break, the singer dipped and strutted around her mic stand with coy control in “Successful,” immersed herself in the emotive pump of “Breathin’” (fans chiming in for the chorus) and turned “Dangerous Woman” into a show-stopper. Her voice flew as Grande confidently swept cross-stage and dropped to her knees, the center of her universe.