Costume changes, soaring vocals, choreography – and the list goes on when describing a live Ariana Grande performance. Grande is known for bringing it, and she did Sunday night. But, she even brought chills to her Lollapalooza audience in 80-degree heat, to close out one of the most anticipated music festivals of the year in Chicago.
Before Grande hit the T-Mobile stage, where Hozier, The Strokes, Janelle Monae, Childish Gambino, Twenty One Pilots and Kacey Musgraves wowed their fans the last four days, a final whole day of sweat, dance and cool new sounds were enjoyed.
What must have been a mile away, as it felt like a 20-minute walk end to end, Francis and the Lights played on a bare Tito’s Handmade Vodka stage. Francis and the Lights is a producer, born Francis Farewell Starlite. Those who know most of nine years of Starlite’s writing could probably enjoy the set more thoroughly than one who hasn’t learned the lyrics, per se.
But, with that being said, a tired voice and few elements of production are what fans got Sunday. Along with being a great producer, Starlite has branded himself on dance, but choreography wasn’t quite enough to compensate for missing pieces in the show. Starlite’s beautiful, unique voice was there but often wavered. He closed the set with “May I Have This Dance,” and included a dance break that was fun to watch. Perhaps showcasing chemistry with a full band or performing those production elements live would help.
The crowd dispersed and I checked the schedule, in search of an act I could discover as a final day activity. I went for the closest small stage (not facing the sun), that was on my way south. I stopped to hear Tayla Parx and was immediately drawn to the middle (which was under the shade) as the harmony became clearer, and I heard her announce that this would be her last song.
This girl is fun. With cool production and a crystal voice, Parx will likely make it near the top by mid-2020. Parx concluded by telling the audience she’d be joining them in the “partying,” which to me, sounded like she meant she gets to enjoy Lollapalooza now. But to the rest of the audience, it seemed to mean “wait there, I’m coming out to meet you.” After waiting a few minutes with the eager crowd and watching more people add on, I left.
It was time for Sharon Van Etten, another act I had yet to discover. Further South is the Lake Shore stage, the one that doesn’t shy from the sun. Jessi Roti of the Chicago Tribune was also enjoying this act, and shared with me that she found Van Etten’s latest album to be the best of the year.
Van Etten doesn’t require many stage elements apart from her band, some leather, cool vocals and instruments. She brought out chimes, she played with scratching sounds and perfectly syncopated drum beat. This was easy to dance to.
But nothing (apart from Flume maybe) can make Lollapalooza 2019 goers dance like Ariana Grande. The world knows this woman to have gone through some mental breaks and hardships, but to have picked herself up without hesitation. She brought out a crew of dancers and kicked off her 8:30 set with “God Is A Woman,” which, though slow to start, is an introduction to just what she can do with that mic and her diaphragm.
Mesmerizing visuals accompanied every song, whether it was Grande’s twinkling red dress, giant hands turning a computerized moon on the backdrop, her out-of-this-world vocal embellishments, or fireworks to accompany the encore, “Thank U, Next.”
Prefacing “Thank U, Next” was a montage of headlines, tweets and commentary on Grande’s mental state and the drama surrounding her. As the slides flashed across all three screens, the sound of a heart beat pounded through the field – Grande’s way of telling her fans just how things felt less than a year ago.
Those who still stigmatize the Ariana Grande experience for one that’s fit for the uneducated in the music realm are sorely mistaken. This woman is a professional who busted out singles in her emotional pain, who used her career to move on.