Arts & Culture

Review: Ariana Grande at American Airlines Center

Ariana Grande in concert
Ariana Grande in concert

By her third song Wednesday, Ariana Grande appeared to have given all she had.

The 21-year-old pop star, making her North Texas debut, threw it all at the American Airlines Center’s near-capacity audience: lasers, fire, smoke, lights, graphics, a sprawling stage housing an eight-piece band and a small platoon of dancers — even the full splendor of her four-octave voice had already been deployed, at the climax of her rendition of Jessie J’s hit single Bang Bang (on which Grande guests).

But even after her melismatic crescendo, there were still wonders to behold.

To wit: Grande astride an enormous chandelier, or Grande gliding over the stage, attached to a cloud, or Grande, declaiming her lyrics amid an acrid cloud of pyro and confetti, looking for all the world like a born star.

Too much was not enough for the Florida native, as the first Dallas stop on her “Honeymoon Tour” — she’ll make a return trip to the AAC Oct. 11 — often felt like a My First Concert.

The mind — and the pocketbook — reeled at everything Grande surrounded herself with, as if no request was unreasonable.

Costume jewelry tossed into the audience? Sure, go for it!

An extended interlude with Imogen Heap (of all people) extolling the creative virtues of the high-tech MiMu gloves, which Grande then deployed — albeit not without a few technical hiccups? What a grand idea!

Lighted cat ear headbands controlled by some unseen force throughout the concert (in shades of Coldplay’s “xyloband” gimmick three years ago)? Hey, why not?

“I want to make sure fans have the best night of their lives,” Grande said in a pre-taped clip at the top of the show. She certainly spent enough to send most attendees home thinking that, but all the expensive cacophony obscured the real draw: Grande’s voice.

There were moments, particularly during Pink Champagne and Tattooed Heart, where it was possible to glimpse why and how Grande could become what she’s long been considered: a Mariah Carey for millennials.

The diminutive vocalist can belt with authority, and when she ignores all the frippery, focusing instead on conveying emotions and making even the most trite, inane lyrics ( “We’re gonna make this bubble/We carbonate some trouble/When your life gets flat/Gotta take it back to another level,” goes one groaner from Pink Champagne) feel vital.

Paring down her 85-minute show might seem counterintuitive, but she has a solid hour stretched unnecessarily with (no kidding) tap dancing, myriad costume changes and interstitial videos offering little entertainment value.

There’s more than a little of the old-school diva in Grande’s approach, a refreshing throwback to the MTV mononym era, even if there’s a peculiar opacity to her overall presentation.

This tour, supporting her 2014 sophomore effort My Everything, is her first major outing, but some judicious editing would’ve elevated the evening from surprising to satisfying and possibly even shockingly good.

As it is, Grande is so busy piling on the spectacle she neglects to highlight the one thing — those deceptively powerful pipes — setting her apart from her contemporaries.

In that respect, she’s very much a product of her ADD-afflicted times, but hopefully, Grande will have a chance to use her talent to not only elevate herself, but the often moribund pop music genre, to a better, more satisfying place.

Preston Jones, 817-390-7713

Twitter: @prestonjones