Ariana Grande at the Air Canada Centre

ARIANA GRANDE with CASHMERE CAT and RIXTON at the Air Canada Centre, Sunday, March 8. Rating: NNNN

Love her or hate her, there’s no denying that Ariana Grande has accomplished much in her short musical career. After a brief Broadway stint, she starred on several Nickelodeon shows before releasing her 2013 debut album, Yours Truly, which devoured Billboard pop charts. Last year’s My Everything saw the 21­-year­-old – who, yes, still wears cat ears – explore more mature themes and genres without alienating her tween and teen audiences.

After opening sets by Norwegian DJ/ producer Cashmere Cat and British boy band Rixton, Grande hit the stage at a near-sold-­out ACC to loud applause, opening with the one-two punch of Bang Bang and Hands On Me. Was there a seven-piece band with strings? Yes. A Great Gatsby-­themed set, complete with dancers in ties and tails, and the singer perched on top of a massive chandelier? Check. High­-tech gloves created by Imogen Heap that allowed the pop star to manipulate sounds by waving her arms? Naturally.

There were also video cameos from a handful of rappers, including Childish Gambino, Mac Miller and Grande’s boyfriend Big Sean, though Toronto R&B singer the Weeknd (who guests on Love Me Harder) was noticeably absent. The ponytailed singer apologized for having a cold but had no trouble hitting the high notes on ballads Be My Baby and Honeymoon Avenue.

She saved the confetti and two of her biggest hits, Break Free and Problem, for last, and the former’s dubstep-­influenced drop was as seismic as both songs’ themes of empowerment, messages not lost on the young crowd. | @nowtoronto

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