F1 concert review: Ariana Grande thrills with her voice, The Chainsmokers entertain with bells and whistles

Crowd attending Ariana Grande's concert on the Padang as seen from Swissotel The Stamford on Sept 16, 2017.
Crowd attending Ariana Grande's concert on the Padang as seen from Swissotel The Stamford on Sept 16, 2017. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Two very different acts played at the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix on Saturday (Sept 16) night on the Padang Stage. Ariana Grande was the consummate live singer and The Chainsmokers made up for their vocal shortcomings with plenty of crowd-pleasing bells and whistles.

While American pop diva Grande turned the Padang Stage at the Marina Bay Street Circuit into a pink-drenched dream, her fellow Americans, The Chainsmokers, turned the heart of the Civic District into a full-on electronic dance music (EDM) party, complete with building-shaking tunes.

She had the earlier 8pm slot and only played for an hour while The Chainsmokers put on a 90-minute show. But then the length of time does not matter when it comes to the quality of the performance.

Grande, 24, was all sass and sexy hair flicks at her first outing in Singapore. The opener Be Alright was an impressive showing of both her flawless vocal chops and her ability to dance in potentially ankle-breaking sky-high heels as she vogued to the track in a black mini dress.

With her four-octave soprano on full show throughout, she delved into her biggest hits including One Last Time, Love Me Harder and Into You. She never broke a sweat despite the sultry Singapore weather and even managed to hold a tune while pedalling on an exercise bicycle on the Nicki Minaj collaboration, Side To Side.

Backed by a full band, a small string section and a troupe of male dancers, her tight 12-song set included multiple outfit changes, including oversized coats over mini dresses and a patent leather ensemble on her Grande finale, Dangerous Woman.

While there was plenty of spectacle to enthral her fans, with only 60 minutes to pack everything in, it meant she had to miss out on other fan favourites like Problem and her cover of Harold Arlen's Over The Rainbow, tracks which regularly featured on her ongoing Dangerous Woman world tour.

Bantering with the crowd was kept to a minimum, with only the occasional "Singapore, let me hear you make some noise!".

It was the complete opposite for The Chainsmokers, who frequently encouraged the crowd to sing along, wave their hands from side to side and even bounce to the left and right.

The DJ duo, made up of Andrew Taggart and Alex Pall, sometimes do their own singing but are not exactly known for their vocals. Taggart made weak attempts to sing live once in a while on the introduction to tracks like Closer and Paris, but perhaps he should have stuck to lip-syncing, as he did on tracks like Young, or pushing buttons on the console.

Not that it mattered to the enthusiastic crowd.

As the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix celebrates its 10th year, it seemed like organisers were making more of a conscious effort to feature younger acts such as Grande and The Chainsmokers, and Sunday's headlining DJ, Calvin Harris.

According to the organisers, Grande attracted a crowd of over 50,000 while Chainsmokers drew almost 60,000.

The latter are one of the biggest crossover acts in the EDM world, with radio and streaming hits like Roses and Don't Let Me Down. The formula for making it big with diverse, mainstream audiences, seems to be mass-appeal tunes like Paris and Honest, fun rainbow-coloured graphics, as well as pyrotechnics and confetti cannons that go off on cue perfectly to pre-programmed setlists.

But perhaps they relied too much on the bells and whistles and their set lacked the peaks and troughs of a good DJ set. Oddly enough, there was no build-up to Closer, arguably their biggest hit.

Still there were some memorable moments such as their Coldplay collaboration Something Just Like This and a remix of Coldplay's Yellow, where the crowd lit up in a beautiful sea of phone lights.

The duo soaked up all the fan fervour and were a sweaty mess by the end of their set.

At one point, Taggart said: "I'm having the best time of my life, people are jumping as far back as I can see." They certainly knew how to work the audience.