Ariana Grande has kicked off her Sweetner world tour in New York with a hit-packed, 31-song setlist.

Performing on an innovative stage built around two spherical video screens, the star focused on tracks from her recent albums Sweetener and thank u, next.

But she excluded two songs, Ghostin’ and Imagine, that discuss her relationship with Mac Miller, who died of an accidental overdose last year.

Speaking at the soundcheck, Grande said Imagine was “too heavy” to play live.

However, she honoured her ex-boyfriend by playing his music as fans filtered into the Times Union Center in Albany, New York.

Grande’s tour comes after a year when her phenomenal creative success was refracted through personal emotional turmoil.

She recorded Sweetener while still suffering panic attacks and depression triggered by a suicide bombing outside her concert in Manchester in 2017, which claimed 22 lives.

The star found some solace in her relationship with Saturday Night Live comedian Pete Davidson, but their engagement ended soon after Miller’s unexpected death in September.

Putting tour plans on hold, Grande returned to the studio and recorded thank u, next in just two weeks – pouring her heart into revealing songs like Fake Smile, Imagine and the title track.

The New York Times called the album “artistically redefining”; and Grande became the first artist since The Beatles to hold the top three slots on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart.






Little of that drama was reflected on stage as the tour opened; with the show acting more as a celebration of the music than a reconstruction of Grande’s private grief.

The 25-year-old opened the show with Raindrops (An Angel Cried), before launching into God Is A Woman – staged, like her MTV Award Show performance last year, as a recreation of Leonardo Da Vinci’s The Last Supper.

While the show leaned heavily on Grande’s new songs, there was also room for classics like Into You, Side To Side, Break Free and One Last Time – the song fans rallied round following the Manchester Arena bombing.

After 90 minutes, the concert wrapped up with an encore of No Tears Left to Cry and thank u, next.

Although Grande didn’t talk much between songs, she thanked fans on social media after she left the stage.

“I really dunno what to say yet. For now, thank you will suffice,” she wrote, alongside a video of fans chanting the words to 7 Rings.

“My mind is all over the place and i am emotional. thank you thank you thank you.”

The eight-month tour is due to hit the UK in August, when Grande will also headline Manchester Pride.