Pop queen Ariana Grande moves the Queen City

Grande’s ‘Sweetener World Tour’ exudes sugary pop smashes at KeyBank Center


Buffalo’s General Mills factory makes the area smell like Cheerios, but on Friday night, something sweeter was in the air.

Ariana Grande, the Billboard record-breaking megastar, brought delightful notes and hits to the KeyBank Center on Friday night. Grande dropped her fifth album “thank u, next” last month but she didn’t limit herself to recent melodies in Buffalo. The singer reached back into her catalog and played deep cuts like “You’ll Never Know” and “Break Your Heart Right Back.”

But it wasn’t just the singer’s habit to please old fans. She kept most of the sold-out crowd on their feet during every number. 

Grande injected her setlist with songs from last year’s album “Sweetener,” a record doused in Pharrell-produced magic and standout ballads. The singer kicked off the night with “Raindrops (An Angel Cried)” before she picked up the tempo with the album’s hit song “God is a Woman.”

Her eye-popping costumes and attire matched the moods of fierce numbers like “Break Up with Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored” and “Dangerous Woman.” Her pink and purple wardrobes added to the neat vocal and visual aesthetics she built on the tour, too, especially on songs like “Sweetener” and “Love Me Harder.”

There was no limit to attendees’ passion for Grande, either. The arena shook on a number of occasions like during “Side to Side” and “NASA.” At times, it felt like a rocket ship ready to take off from the arena floor, a feeling which matched Grande’s extraterrestrial tour visuals. 

Starry, kaleidoscopic renderings plastered the walls behind the singer. On “Goodnight n Go,” for instance, a globe in the middle of the arena lit up as the moon. The singer lightly tracked her vocals and bounced them off the arena’s interior to create an out-of-world pop showcase.

Grande highlighted the night with her performances of “7 Rings,” “Breathin,” “NASA” and “Everytime.” She displayed her affinity for bling during “7 Rings” as a pink car (which read “Buffalo”) rose from the bottom of the stage. On “Bloodline,” dancers tossed beads into the adoring crowd.

She saved the best for last, too, and closed with the arena-shaking pop ballads “Break Free” and “No Tears Left to Cry.”

The singer disappeared from the stage after “No Tears Left to Cry,” and fans chanted for the obvious omission from the night’s setlist: “thank u, next.”

The sold-out crowd chanted the song title for three minutes then the singer appeared on stage with a “Mean Girls”-inspired look and backup vocalists. She danced carefree on the circular stage to end the night and celebrated with dancers to complete her pop circuit in Buffalo.

Normani, a rising solo star and Fifth Harmony member, opened the tour. She pleased the crowd with her dances and solo cuts in spite of a brief technical difficulty. The singer’s back-up guitarist and pianist shined as Normani proved herself as a standalone tour candidate herself. The singer rocked the crowd with a Rihanna medley along with her dazzling numbers such as “Love Lies” and “Dancing with a Stranger.”

Hip-hop duo Social House opened the evening for the crowd, still filtering in, with a variety of unreleased tracks. The duo had the audience on its feet during their performance of “Magic in the Hamptons.”

Grande and her openers will take a well-deserved, three-day break from the tour after her trip to Buffalo. If fans missed the singer’s downtown stop on Friday, they can catch Grande’s tour in nearby Toronto on April 3 and June 26.

Benjamin Blanchet is the editorial editor and can be reached at benjamin.blanchet@ubspectrum.com.


Benjamin Blanchet is the senior engagement editor for The Spectrum. His words have been seen in The Buffalo News (Gusto) and The Sun newspapers of Western New York. Loves cryptoquip and double-doubles.