Ariana Grande didn’t even make it to the end of her first song at Sunday night’s (Dec. 22) Los Angeles Forum show before breaking down in tears.
It’s not hard to understand why. The set — the second of a two-night stand marking the end of her Sweetener World Tour — marks the close of a remarkable period in Grande’s life and career. It was her first major outing since the horrific terrorist attack in Manchester in May 2017, but it also coincided with an imperial period in her creativity.
Both 2018’s Sweetener, and this year’s follow-up Thank U, Next earned her five Billboard Top 10 hits, six Grammy nods, carried her to a headlining Coachella performance, and established her as an icon. So you can understand her getting emotional at the close of such an astonishing chapter (which is also documented with a just-released live album, K Bye For Now [SWT Live]).
“I can’t begin to express how much joy this experience has bought me,” she told the crowd during the show, stopping to give exten?ded shout-outs to her band, crew, and naturally, the ever-loyal Arianators. “This year would not have gone the way it did without you.” The feeling was obviously mutual, as following the finale of “Thank U, Next,” her dancers gifted her a giant bouquet of flowers and enveloped the Florida-born singer in a group hug.
The emotion was an added element to a slick live production that frequently illustrated why the 26-year-old is at the peak of her powers.
Here are five takeaways from the final night — and the Sweetener World Tour, overall.
The Last Supper gets some special sauce
There’s nothing new about pop artists giving religion a sexually charged revision (hi, Madge!) but Grande’s has certainly added her own unique spin on the Last Supper. Just two songs in, she and her cabal of dancers surround a long table, grinding and gyrating their way through “Bad Idea” in a delightfully blasphemous way. Anyone who saw the Sweetener World Tour will likely never look at Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece in quite the same way again.
Less is more
The Ariana of old seemed desperate to lead with her voice, showing off her four-octave range as often as possible. While her belting prowess still emerged during songs such as “Sweetener” and a powerful “Dangerous Woman,” she now uses her most devastating weapon with a near-expert discretion — making it all the more effective.
Dance Ari, dance Ari, dance Ari, oh-oh oh!
Despite teetering around the stage and the U-shaped runway in impractical platform boots that make you think she’s always perilously close to taking a tumble, Grande barely missed a step of her tightly choreographed routines, including the energetic dance breakdowns during “Side To Side” and “7 Rings.” It’s a swagger and grace she’s worked exceptionally hard to achieve.
Hits for days
The beauty of watching Grande at the end of the Sweetener World Tour is that it no longer feels like an exercise in promoting her new work. Relatively recent songs such as “Breathin” and “Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored” already feel like classics and have been embedded into pop history, and that’s to say nothing of earlier gems such as “Honeymoon Avenue” or the still-sizzling “Into You.” For an act in her mid-20s, it’s remarkable how deep her catalogue already goes.
Christmas time is Ariana’s time
As fans of her Christmas EPs know, Grande takes Festivus pretty seriously and honored the season with a medley of her yuletide ditties — including the much-underrated “Santa Tell Me,” which was lapped up by the crowd, and marked by a giant descending bauble and a huge snow storm. (It took Mariah 25 years to top the charts with “All I Want For Christmas is You,” so don’t bet against Ari becoming a future Queen of Christmas.)