Goosebumped and shivering, thousands flocked to the gates of Buffalo, N.Y.’s KeyBank Center on Friday night (March 22), where Ariana Grande launched into night No. 3 of her Sweetener World Tour. The aroma of wing sauce and French fries wafted into nostrils as a horde of blown-out curls breezed through security (thanks to Ariana’s post-Manchester bag rules), heels clicking past vestibules of Labatt Blue to watch Social House and Normani kick off the next three hours.
Despite tapping into stan Twitter and veraciously following Ariana’s socials, I had avoided all the Sweetener spoilers I could. But even after sneaking a peek at the setlist on the train ride up to Buffalo, I still had a few surprises lying ahead when Ms. Grande strutted into the arena to begin a mind-altering musical mission through space, time, love, and riches. And lucky for you, we’re breaking it all down below.
Let’s get the boilerplate stuff out of the way. Ariana implored her fans to opt out of bags... or at least suggested they choose small plastic ones. I bought one from her website, but damnitall, it did not arrive in time for the show. Thankfully, I was able to check my tote — containing the computer I typed this on, deodorant and a change of underwear (TMI?) — at customer services. Phew! Anyway, getting through security was a dream because there was nothing to hold it up.
THE SEARCH FOR MERCH
Light pink and ‘00s themed, the merch contained retro-looking tees and, no, the “dick stain” shirt was nowhere to be found.
NORMANI NAILS IT
You guys, we need to talk about Normani. In the words of Nicki Minaj, Normani really is “that bitch.” And she knows it. In fact, the former Fifth Harmony member used Nicki’s legendary VMA words in a collage of headlines that intro’d her performance. Looking like a sexy disco ball, Normani showed off her incredible dance skills between a medley of Rihanna covers and 5H throwbacks, along with fan-favorite “Love Lies” and her newest track with 6lack, “Waves.” Do not because surprised if Mani is headlining arenas in just a few years.
WELCOME TO THE LAST SUPPER
THIGH-HIGHS OVER GUYS
Beyoncé has her leotards, Justin Bieber has his Nirvana tees, Lorde has her Adidas, and Ariana? Ariana has her thigh-high boots. Six pairs to be exact. Versace designed all of her ‘fits for the tour, including boots of the white latex, black latex, plaid latex,x and red latex variety. Who needs pants anyway?
WOMEN ARE FROM VENUS
It makes perfect sense that a giant celestial orb clung to the center of the stage. Very on brand. After all, a few months ago, Ariana dedicated a multi-snap Instagram Story just to the planet Jupiter. The outer-space theme worked beautifully when it came time for “NASA” or when a massive moon dropped from the ceiling for “Goodnight n Go.”
A MARATHON SETLIST
Your girl played nearly 30 songs over the course of the night — which means there was very little talking and lots of singing. Ten songs came from Sweetener and nine came from Thank U, Next. She also threw in an oldie-but-goodie medley for the OG fans, including “Right There,” “You'll Never Know,” and “Break Your Heart Right Back.”
While we hear the voices of Nicki, Childish Gambino, and Big Sean (some fans assured me they’re not dating, just hanging) throughout the show, she didn’t bring out any of her famous friends. In Boston, two nights earlier, she invited 2 Chainz onstage to perform “Rule The World.” Nothing like that in Buffalo, unless you count Goldie Hawn in the First Wives Club clip she played or the Wall-E and Eve cartoons caught in her backdrop.
JUMP IN THAT CADILLAC
Yep, Ariana brought a car onstage. To top it off, during “7 Rings” — currently the No. 1 song in the country, by the way — the vehicle got spray painted with the city name: Buffalo!
Just to prove how much of a glow-up Ariana has had — and to prove how little she’s changed — concertgoers were treated a vintage vid of our tiny Grande going full Jim Carrey by reciting an entire monologue from Bruce Almighty (a movie that takes place in Buffalo, N.Y., so, appropriate).
Although the Nicholson brothers weren’t as present in the dance troupe as they were in previous tours, they still played the part of creative directors, with one of them filming Ariana for “The Light Is Coming,” therefore creating a live music video right on the catwalk.
REGISTER TO VOTE
If you took a snack break, you could also register to vote. Ariana hosted nonprofit HeadCount at the show in hopes to get fans involved in democracy!
SHARING IS CARING
No one can ever say Ariana doesn’t treat her fans well. For “Bloodline,” she dragged around a collection of jewels to share with her Arianators in the pit. She even pulled a lipstick from her bra and tossed it into the crowd! It was at that point I wished I would’ve shelled out money for that VIP upgrade, but I’m not ready for my receipts to look like phone numbers just yet.
I WANNA HOLD YOUR HAND
We stan a queen who holds her fans’ hands while performing. Ariana did just that during “One Last Time,” which has become an anthem for her fans after the tragic Manchester bombing during the Dangerous Woman Tour.
THANK U, NEXT
Ariana left us with “No Tears Left To Cry,” but not so fast! After fans started chanting “Thank U, Next,” each time getting louder, the Sweetener crew came out to perform Ariana’s first-ever No. 1 song. Does that mean "thank you... next concert?" Excuse me while I cruise StubHub for the next tour date.