A View from Above: Ariana Grande at the Moda Center

Vortex Music Magazine

Pop superstar Ariana Grande filled the Moda Center on September 4, and Vortex took a seat in the nosebleeds to witness the production in its full force.

Ariana Grande has come a long way since her roles on Nickelodeon. Her vocal chops have forever been in place, but they’ve not been showcased to their full extent until she fully took charge of her own musical career. With her latest album, My Everything, Grande’s vocals layer over a mesh of R&B and EDM stylings, featuring such talents as Childish Gambino, Iggy Azalea and The Weeknd. It’s a milestone piece of work for her, so a live show is important in solidifying its legend.

Dubbed The Honeymoon Tour, Grande’s voyage in support of the album has been critically acclaimed for many reasons, one of which being its production value. With the use of fireworks, confetti, lasers and more, I decided there was only one point of view that would allow me to see all these at work: from above.

I made the impulse decision and bought one ticket in the 300 section of the Moda Center, placing me above and away from the action, looking straight at the whole of the spectacle. From my perch, I could see the crowd, the stage, the screens, everything all at once. I couldn’t wait to see what Grande brought to the show.

Latin pop singer Prince Royce opened the night. His production and stage presence was headline-worthy for sure. Complete with dancers, runway walks, and a lot of crowd interaction, Royce showed he could helm an arena stage with ease. However, one thing slightly turned me off: his ego.

Though Royce definitely had the majority of the crowd at his fingertips, the way he went about it seemed a little over the top. At one point, he gave a shout-out to all the sexy ladies in the crowd, lifting his shirt and rubbing his abs.

“You sexy ladies are making it too hot in here,” he said.

Maybe it’s just me, but it seemed like he was saying something more along the lines of: “Look at my abs. Don’t they turn you on? I’m the sexiest one here.” His vocals were good, but his ego was a little too big for my taste.

Luckily, Grande was quick to cleanse the crowd. After a brief wait between sets, the lights dimmed and the countdown to Grande began. A clock counted down from 60 seconds on the massive screen onstage, and the crowd went wild the closer and closer it got to zero.

Grande opened her breathtaking set with “Bang Bang,” the Jessie J, Nicki Minaj and Grande track that took the cake for Best Collaboration at this year’s iHeartRadio Music Awards. It really deserved the trophy as it’s a massive track that, believe it or not, sounds even better from Grande herself.

The highly touted production came through right off the bat, with “Bang Bang”’s live rendition featuring strobes, lasers and pyrotechnics. And the high level of visuals never stopped as the set took us through a collection of Grande’s best.

“Break Free” (watch the music video below) had to be the highlight of the night’s production, adding a stunning amount of laser lights to Zedd’s giant electronic presence on the track. It garnered one of the biggest crowd responses as well, with the whole arena singing and dancing along like nobody’s business.

What really blew the rest of the performance out of the water, though, was Grande’s stunning vocals on her slower ballads. This requires some background: Earlier in the night, Grande spoke to the crowd of her mild illness, explaining that she’d felt very sick over the last couple days and that her voice may not be what it should.

“But with you, I’m feeling a lot better Portland,” she said. “We’ll make it through this together and have the best night of our lives!”

Cue “My Everything,” the title track off of Grande’s latest album and one of the most beautiful songs featured on the record. Sitting atop a grand piano backdropped by pink clouds that only the sweetness of her voice could conjure, Grande showed the crowd that, even with a light cold, her voice still beats out almost every other artist around.

From my place above, I watched the crowd love and adore Grande with cheers and screams; and I watched Grande give just as much back to them from the stage. She took the stage and owned it, offering an energetic set full of emotion to her Portland fans. Grande has definitely defined herself as a true artist, and she has the talent to go even farther than she already has. I can’t wait to see where she’s headed next.

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