On 22nd May 2017, a bomb was detonated in the foyer of the Manchester Arena, at the end of an Ariana Grande concert. 22 people tragically lost their lives, and over 100 were injured in the attack. This senseless act of violence could have been met with hate, resentment, and anger. Instead, Ariana Grande and the people of Manchester responded with the most beautiful tribute – an incredible concert, hosted just 13 days later. One Love Manchester was full of love, hope, and inspiration. In case you missed it, here’s what happened:
The images of Old Trafford Cricket Ground, where the concert was held, sent shivers down my spine. It was absolutely packed full of young people, all bravely holding their heads high in defiance. There were homemade signs everywhere with messages such as ‘For our Angels’, and ‘Manchester, we stand with you’. There was an overwhelming sense of unity, peace, and love. Groups of youngsters were chatting, laughing and joking before the concert started. Everyone was joining together, looking after each other. The atmosphere was one of hope and joy.
Opening the concert
Marcus Mumford, lead singer of Mumford & Sons, opened the concert with a moment of silence. His message to the crowd was ‘let’s not be afraid’. He sang an acoustic version of Timshel, which has the lyrics:
“You are not alone in this. Together we will stand and hold your hand.”
Take That & Robbie Williams
Take That followed Marcus, starting their set with Shine. They originally formed in Manchester, and they were visibly emotional to be on stage. Their next song was Giants, during which they asked the crowd to:
“Stand strong, look to the sky, and sing loud and proud.”
They finished their set with Rule the World, before introducing their previous band member Robbie Williams to the stage. Although Robbie Williams was born in Stoke, he actually spent a lot of his younger years in Manchester. He came out singing (to the tune of Strong):
“Manchester we’re strong, we’re strong, we’re strong. We’re still singing our songs, our songs, our songs.”
He launched into Strong, adapting the lyrics as he went along, and concluding with the crowd singing them – completely a cappella. The sense of pride throughout the stadium was tangible, with people singing loudly and clearly. Robbie then started singing Angels. An emotional song at the best of times, he struggled to contain his tears as he performed. This was one of the most moving moments of the whole night, as he looked to the sky and got choked up on several occasions.
A recorded video message from U2 came next. They reminded us that:
“There’s no end to grief. That’s how we know there’s no end to love.”
The next set was taken by Pharrell Williams, and he had a very energetic and uplifting message. He started with Get Lucky, telling the crowd to:
“Let the world hear your resilience.”
He was joined on stage by Miley Cyrus, who duetted with him for Happy. Miley then sang Inspired. before Niall Horan came out to perform Slow Hands and This Town.
A message from the producers
Following this, there was a short break from music, while the producers of the show came out to speak to the crowd. Melvin Benn, Simon Moran, and Scooter Braun were all heavily responsible for the success of this concert. They thanked everyone for their involvement, and all the people who had risked their lives just a few weeks before.
“All of you were challenged. You had a decision to make about whether you were going to come out here tonight. And this is so beautiful. You looked fear right in the face and said ‘We are Manchester’, and the whole world is watching. 15 year old Adam, who lost his best friend Olivia, said ‘don’t go forward in anger. Love spreads’.
We owe it to our children to be brave. They demand our bravery. Hate will never win, fear will never divide us, because on this stage we all stood with Manchester.”
Finally was the moment we had all been waiting for. One hour into the concert, Ariana Grande took to the stage, wearing a ‘One Love Manchester’ jumper. She sang Be Alright and Break Free, before exiting the stage – this concert was not about her. She was not here seeking any glory. This wonderful lady came across as so young and humble, and so desperate to do something good.
Next up was a heartfelt video link from Stevie Wonder. He was playing the jarpejii, and singing Love’s in Need of Love. Little Mix came out to sing Wings, and Ariana returned with Victoria Monet to sing Better Days. Perhaps one of the most appropriate songs of the whole night was sung next, by the Black Eyed Peas and Ariana – Where is the Love:
“People killing, people dying, children hurt and you hear them crying. Can you practise what you preach, or would you turn the other cheek?
Imogen Heap was next, with a beautiful rendition of Hide and Seek. Then David Beckham, who spent many years living in Manchester when he playing for Manchester United, sent a video message:
“Tonight is about remembering those that suffered so much on that night, but also about celebrating the spirit of this great city. It’s a place we all love.”
High School Choir
One of the highlights for me was the next performance, by Parrs Wood High School Choir, featuring Ariana. Some of the children from the choir had been at the Ariana concert on 22nd May. One young girl sang solo, leading the choir in front of thousands of people. She was joined on stage by Ariana, and both were crying by the end of My Everything. It was so touching, and so genuine.
Ariana was joined on stage by her boyfriend, Mac Miller for The Way, and Miley Cyrus returned for a duet with Ariana, Don’t Dream It’s Over. Ariana then spoke a few words to the crowd, before singing Side to Side:
“I want to thank you so much for coming together, and being so loving and strong and unified. I love you all so much, and I think that the love and unity that you’re showing is the medicine that the world needs right now.”
Katy Perry was next up, with Part of Me and Roar. Justin Bieber gave an emotional acoustic performance of Love Yourself and Cold Water, and Ariana came back on to sing Love Me Harder.
I stand with Manchester
A video was then shown of dozens of bands, presenters, ordinary people, all delivering the message ‘I stand with Manchester’. It was truly special, so rousing, and completely inspiring. A young lady spoke the following words:
“Music is not a place for fear. Music is a universal language that the whole world speaks. It doesn’t matter what race, what faith, what class, what life you experience what, when a bunch of people can get together and they can all relate to one thing, their love for music, a beautiful thing happens. And it’s that sense of communication that keeps music fans so loving and so unconditional. I stand with Manchester.
Coldplay took to the stage, with Chris Martin singing the Oasis classic Don’t Look Back in Anger. The words were up on the big screens, for the whole crowd to sing, and there was so much power behind their voices. He then sang Fix You and Viva la Vida. It was almost dark by this time, and the atmosphere was totally electric.
There was only one act left to perform – someone who is so representative of Manchester, and one of the greatest artists produced by the city: Liam Gallagher. He sang Rock ‘N’ Roll Star and Wall of Glass, before being joined by Chris Martin for Live Forever. The audience was going crazy – it was such a special tribute to those who had fallen.
One last time, Ariana brought everyone back on stage while she performed One Last Time. This was especially poignant as it is the song she had performed as an encore on the tragic night 2 weeks earlier. She concluded the concert with a beautiful performance of Over the Rainbow. It was perfect.
All of the artists performed for free, Live Aid paid for the cost of the concert, and Uber made a donation equal to the fares to and from the concert.
Ariana Grande has proved herself to be the most wonderful role model to young people. She has shown them to stand up in the face of fear, to join together with the help of music, and to keep on singing our songs. At the tender age of just 23, she facilitated a tribute concert like no other, with the entire world watching. She showed the youngsters that they can be brave, that they can live their lives without fear, and that music is the greatest unifying language. She has raised millions of pounds, and helped Manchester to hold onto its spirit. We stand with Manchester.