ARIANA GRANDE, O2 Arena – Evening Standard, 19 Aug 2019

Ariana Grande could be forgiven for avoiding concerts, to stay coccooned in the recording studio where she is currently so prolific. This was the start of her first new tour in Europe since an ex-boyfriend’s death and the bomb at her Manchester show that killed 23 in 2017. No one begrudged the strict security, with only clear plastic bags allowed inside.

  The sadness is all there in the songs, but perhaps to make singing them possible, her performance felt more detached. She said nothing beyond happy-to-be-here platitudes, and subdued, spotlight-free lighting meant she sometimes didn’t feel like the star of her own show. She could have been hidden among her numerous dancers if it wasn’t for her possession of pop’s most recognisable silhouette: a ponytail streaming down almost to her thigh-high platform heels.

  Marvellous visual effects included galaxies racing past during the bubbly NASA and water appearing to pour down the U-shaped walkway for R.E.M. It was a thrill to be in the same room as her skyscraper voice too.

  The confetti came during Thank U, Next, a song about pushing onward. This return to the UK is another big thing to tick off. The highs are increasingly outweighing the lows.