Ariana Grande fans are not just middle school girls. At least, that was one of the first things I noticed as I approached the near capacity-filled Moda Center in Portland Aug. 4 — with my 12-year-old sister in tow.
People of all ages, male and female, were clad in cat ears and tour t-shirts eager to see the top-40 artist up close and in person. And while I was fairly lost in a sea shimmery pink lip gloss and sickly sweet perfume, I still found myself just as excited to see the singer as the preteen and teenage girls around me that idolized her.
After Prince Royce amped up the crowd, Grande exploded onto stage moments later with her mega-hit “Bang Bang.” Sporting her signature half ponytail; Grande was clad in a skin-tight black leotard, clear plastic skirt, black thigh-high Louboutin stilettos and, of course, a pair of personalized cat ears.
And while Grande expressed that she was fairly ill via Twitter, her voice was as strong as ever. The pint-sized pop star hit all the high notes, energetically performed complicated dance moves and giggled while exclaiming to her fans how excited she was to be there. The only noticeable difference was the lack of costume changes and the dark gray hoodie she wore to stay warm.
Because — ill or not — if Ariana Grande’s going to be on stage, she’s going to put on a show. Within the first third of the performance, she descended upon the stage on a cotton candy-esque cloud, reminiscent of a Katy Perry music video circa 2010. And later, a large chandelier straight out of The Great Gatsby appeared, complete with a small army of backup dancers in flapper attire.
Of course, no headlining tour is complete without sparkling fireworks and misty fog, both of which were in heavy use for the duration of the show. Much of the setlist consisted from cuts her 2014 album My Everything, including everything from the upbeat yet somber “One Last Time” to the soft crooning of “Love Me Harder.”
Grande even surprised the crowd with a few of her oldest songs. Late in the set Grande sang “Pink Champagne,” a bubbly number that she recorded at age 17 and later shared via YouTube back in 2013.
Grande ended the concert with her girl-power anthems “Break Free” and “Problem.” When someone threw a rainbow flag onstage as she sang, Grande immediately picked it up and waved it with pride. As glittering confetti showered the crowd, Grande thanked her fans for making her feel better despite her illness.
While it can be easy to draw comparisons to other pop stars of the ’90s and early ’00s, it’s clear that Grande has a style and flair that is all her own. I can assure you that beneath all those chestnut extensions and black winged eyeliner, there really is just a normal girl with an abundance of sheer, raw talent.
Follow Shelby Chapman on Twitter @ShelbyEm15.