Ariana Grande had a lot to celebrate and a lot to look forward to on Saturday night at The Theatre at Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles following her hectic Sweetener release week. She was about to rack up her third No. 1 album, with the announcement Sunday (Aug. 26) that Sweetener had topped the Streets Talkin 200, but she was also looking back at the success of the projects that started it all.
"I can't believe it's been four years since My Everything," she told the crowd of her sophomore album, released Aug. 25, 2014, which launched the hit songs "Problem" (featuring Iggy Azalea), "Break Free" (featuring Zedd) and "Love Me Harder" (featuring The Weeknd). "And then on [September] 3rd, it's going to be five years since [debut album] Yours Truly. It's so weird, because how did that happen so quickly, you know? How am I alive? How am I awake? That's so crazy. It's been such a wild ride."
Anyone who has followed Grande's career knows what an understatement that is. These past five years have brought extreme highs and unspeakable lows for the pop star, and her offhand "How am I alive?" remark is especially poignant in the context of the deadly bombing that took place outside her Manchester Arena concert last year. But in the year-plus since the tragedy, Grande has chosen to move forward in the most joyful ways possible: by spearheading the One Love Manchester benefit concert to raise money for victims of the bombing and their families, by kicking off her new era with the buoyant lead single "No Tears Left to Cry," and by beaming from ear to ear and speaking openly about her whirlwind romance with fiancé Pete Davidson. And that joy took center stage Saturday night at the 1,600-capacity Ace Hotel theater for the LA date of American Express x Ariana Grande: The Sweetener Sessions (she previously played New York's Irving Plaza the night of the MTV Video Music Awards and Chicago's Vic Theatre, with a potential London stop next month).
Before kicking the night off with an onstage kiss, Davidson proudly introduced his fiancée to a crowd that definitely didn't need the introduction. "Coming to the stage — I can't believe she talks to me — give it up for my love, Ariana Grande!"
The night was entirely driven by the fans, who shouted out their Sweetener requests, and Grande obliged — performing every song from the new album except for her Nicki Minaj collaboration "The Light Is Coming." There were only two non-Sweetener songs all night: Grande did a little a cappella taste of "Be My Baby" and another My Everything cut to celebrate the anniversary, saying, "I've actually never done this song before — live, anyway," before launching into the live debut of fan-favorite bonus track "Only 1."
Bringing things back to her future husband, Grande performed the Sweetener song titled — what else? — "Pete Davidson," noting that the swift 1 minute, 13 second song "goes on in my head for another three minutes." She bantered with fans quite a bit between songs, even chastising herself for chatting too much: "Sorry, I'm, like, so annoying and emotional. Ariana, shut up and sing the songs." (The crowd definitely didn't mind.) The fan interaction hit a hilarious peak just before her final song of the night: After starting and stopping the a cappella Sweetener opening track "Raindrops (An Angel Cried)," Grande turned to an audience member and said, laughing, "Wait. Did you say, 'Start again, I wasn't recording'?" Yes, he did say that, and she did start again, fulfilling her final fan request of the night.
Ariana Grande's set list at The Theatre at the Ace Hotel:
Goodnight n Go
Be My Baby (a cappella)
God Is a Woman
No Tears Left to Cry
Get Well Soon
Raindrops (An Angel Cried)