Show Date: March 17, 2015
Opening Act: N/A
There was a lot going against fairly new starlet Ariana Grande going into her 2015 Honeymoon Tour, particularly on its stop at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (HLSR) in Texas. On her end, she had some major sprucing to do with her stage presence, choreography and vocal delivery (i.e. diction, emotionality, unique styling). In the television performances I've seen, she frequently appeared to look petrified and/or apathetic, and very "I'm more of a natural singer than a dancer" uncomfortable. This was patently noticeable anytime she did hit single "Bang Bang" live with Jessie J, whose presence and vocals are nothing short of ferocious and supersede hers. On the end of the HLSR, the turning stage is small in circumference and is in the middle of a dirt base in a round stadium. Acts are often driven out to the scaffold. This means no convenience for costume changes or room for elaborate sets. There's a video backdrop, but it doesn't help much because the way things are set up, no matter where you sit (unless it's directly in the middle section), your eyes will rely on the jumbo screens above for decent viewing. The final kicker is that the contracted time allotted is usually an hour, which is pretty aggravating when the cattle show beforehand runs 2 hours, starting at 6:45pm. I know, I know, it's a rodeo and animals/cowboys would naturally would be a focus, but I'd bet my right hand that most of those who purchase tickets have music primarily in mind. All of this into account, I didn't expect much but to enjoy hearing live versions of my favorite songs from Grande's 2 albums, Yours Truly & My Everything. However, the 21-year-old pleasantly surprised me.
Apart from needlessly leaving the stage 2-3 times, not using the entire hour (I heard abbreviations of my jams "Lovin' It" and "Be My Baby" for what reason? Where was my other love, "Honeymoon Avenue" on the Honeymoon Tour?), a very anti-climatic opening (she just stepped on the platform and started singing) and stumbling through changeovers, Ariana Grande herself was fine. It was mostly the design of the show that kept it from being the best it could. Sure, there's still some tweaking to be done for Ms. Grande, but I'm confident she'll get there.