The Best Moments From Ariana Grande's Post-VMAs Concert For 1,000 Fans in NYC

Ariana Grande
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for American Express

American Express and Ariana Grande present "The Sweetener Sessions" at Irving Plaza on Aug. 20, 2018 in New York City.  

Yes, Pete Davidson was there (and so was Madonna).

Soon after Ariana Grande gave a transformative performance of “God Is a Woman” at the 2018 MTV VMAs on Monday night (Aug. 20) -- during which she recreated a female-only version of The Last Supper -- she scooted over to Irving Plaza in New York’s East Village.

Grande made her entrance through the balcony with fiance Pete Davidson (who was wearing a Sweetener shirt) and blew kisses to her fans down below in general admission; the venue’s capacity is only a handful over 1,000.

The intimate show marked the first of three Sweetener Sessions, organized by American Express, during which Grande performs tracks off her latest album in a stripped-down, super small setting. New York’s set marked the live debut of 11 Sweetener songs, and dates in Chicago and Los Angeles will follow.

But with Davidson and her brother Frankie dancing side stage, her mom and grandma looking on from the balcony, plus Karlie Kloss and even Madonna stopping by to watch the show, Grande’s first stop will be tough to top. As she said while scanning the packed room of dedicate fans (the show started at midnight): “I trust this.”

Here are the seven best moments from the hour-long set.

Scooter Braun Made His No. 1 Goal Known

“We’re gonna make tonight a celebration,” Scooter Braun, Grande’s longtime manager said during his brief speech that alerted fans things were about to get going. He also made sure to plug sales of the Sweetener physical CD, which was being sold along with exclusive Sweetener Sessions shirts, by telling everyone that Grande had signed several copies, which would be available after the show on a first-come-first-serve basis. “You know what I did there, right?” he asked. “That was a trick to sell some CDs.” He continued: “Someone tweeted, ‘The devil works hard, I work harder.’ You’re damn right -- we’re gonna get this to No. 1.”

Pete Davidson Was Sour, Then Sweet

Before Grande stepped onto the small stage (that somehow fit her drummer, three keyboardists -- two of which also hopped on bass and guitar -- and three backup vocalists) she was lovingly introduced by Davidson. Wearing one of the exclusive shirts, he first asked everybody to “shut the fuck up” before introducing “the best person I know.” As he exited the stage and she came on, the two exchanged a quick kiss before she settled onto the small black stool placed center stage.

The Set Had No Set List

“Do you wanna know why I’m so excited?” Grande asked her screaming fans. “We have no plans at all. We just know the music, and want to hang out." She wasn’t lying. The evening carried the casualness of an open-mic night...only with one of the biggest pop stars in the world. She asked fans to pick what song to start with, and made the call after holding a brief screaming contest. “Breathin” beat out “Sweetener," and that laid-back, fans-first vibe didn’t wane.

Ariana Made Time For a Quick FaceTime

As her band got set up for the next track, Grande briefly mentioned her VMA win for Best Pop Video (with “No Tears Left to Cry”). “I have no idea what I said,” Grande laughed. “I blacked out, I have no fucking idea what I said.” Her mom, and grandma looked on with pride from the balcony nonetheless. And before she continued discussing her recent win, she got distracted by a fan in the front-row. “Yo, somebody in the front row is on FaceTime,” she said, standing up from her stool. She was then handed the phone and had some one-on-one time, waving emphatically to the lucky caller on the other end.

She Sang "Pete Davidson" to Pete Davidson

It’s no secret who “Pete Davidson” is about -- it’s a beautiful and gushy love song about her soon-to-be husband, of course. So naturally, before she sang the brief track, she skipped over to the side of the stage to bend down for a kiss from Davidson, who was watching and dancing from the security pit.

Madonna Showed Up -- Yes, Really

Halfway through “Successful” there was a subtle stir in the balcony. Madonna had arrived, and there couldn't have been a more fitting soundtrack for her entrance. Grande finished the song without notice or mention of the special guest, and went right into “Borderline,” even rapping part of Missy Elliott’s verses. “This is the most fun I’ve ever had,” Grande admitted before interrupting herself after a band member alerted her to the news: “Oh, my God, where is she?!” She then said all in one breath, “You guys, Madonna is here. Hi, Madonna. Guys, I’m going to pass out.” Meanwhile, Madonna, who had also come from the VMAs where she gave an Aretha Franklin tribute, was wearing the same head wrap from the show, mirrored ski goggle-looking glasses and a long dress. And while she was mostly there to relax and observe, even she couldn’t help but applaud after an a cappella call-and-response ending to “God Is a Woman.”

No More Tears, No More Time

After fittingly ending the set with “Get Well Soon” -- save for the moment of silence at the end that brings the song to its 5:22 track time -- Grande came jogging back on stage. ““I forgot to do ‘No Tears Left to Cry,’” she said. “I literally forgot. Can we do that?” As if the crowd would say no. She delivered the hit and ended the last note with a hair flip (her hair was in fact down) and said, “I’m gonna go to sleep now!” before leaving the stage for good at 12:55 a.m. and walking straight into Davidson’s arms.

American Express and Ariana Grande present "The Sweetener Sessions" at Irving Plaza on Aug. 20, 2018 in New York City.  Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for American Express

Ariana Grande Sweetener Sessions Setlist -- Monday, Aug. 20, 2018



Better Off



Pete Davidson



Goodnight N Go

God Is a Woman

Get Well Soon

No Tears Left to Cry

Raindrops (An Angel Cried)


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