I think we can all agree that live music – or music in general – and special events are universal forces that connect us, helps us escape reality for a while, brings us joy and beautiful memories that won’t be forgotten. People of all ages, shapes, sizes, religions, race, and backgrounds gather together at concerts for an experience that helps them forget about their troubles or the troubles of the world. Parents take their children for their first concert experience because they know the feeling one gets when you see your favorite artist live, and they want their kids to feel that. Teens and young adults go because in a crowd of thousands of people, you’re all singing along to every song and feeling every emotion, together, because in one way or another, you all can relate to the lyrics. Adults go because, no matter how old you are or how many concerts you’ve been to, the feeling of live music never gets old. Tears get shed. Your voice gets shot. There’s dancing. Friends are made. Laughs are shared. Memories are made.
But on May 22, 2017, thousands of innocent concert goers’ experiences became tarnished as a heartbreaking and fatal memory. In a senseless and cowardly act, some sick individual (claimed by ISIS) detonated a suicide bomb minutes after an Ariana Grande concert in the foyer of the Manchester Arena in Manchester, England. Twenty-two people, ranging from an eight-year-old girl to adults, were killed and nearly sixty others were injured. What was supposed to be a night full of fun for children and teenagers ended in a horrific nightmare for thousands.
One can only imagine the guilt and pain Ariana Grande must have felt (and may continue to feel) even though it wasn’t her fault in any way, shape, or form. The weight on her shoulders was surely heavy, but that didn’t stop her from pushing forward and honoring and supporting the lost, their families, and everyone who attended the concert that night. In a truly commendable act, Ariana and her team stepped up. Not only is she reportedly paying for the funerals of the twenty-two that were lost, but she and her crew put together one heck of a benefit concert in Manchester only two weeks later: One Love Manchester.
Boy, did the stars rally together for this one. The scheduled lineup included: Ariana Grande, Mac Miller, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, the Black Eyed Peas, Niall Horan, Pharrel Williams, Coldplay, Marcus Mumford (of Mumford & Sons), Take That, Robbie Williams, Little Mix, Victoria Monet, and Imogene Heap, plus a surprise performance by Liam Gallagher of Oasis. Tony Walsh and Usher were also announced to be there, but Usher was unable to due to family priorities, which is understandable. The set list (below) included beautiful and empowering songs – and of course some of the hits – to encourage the city of Manchester, and anyone, to not let this tragedy make them fearful or knock them down.
Marcus Mumford – “Timshel”
Take That – “Shine”
Take That – “Giants”
Take That – “Rule the World”
Robbie Williams – “Strong”
Robbie Williams – “Angels”
Pharrel Williams – “Get Lucky”
Pharrel Williams – “Happy” ft. Miley Cyrus
Miley Cyrus – “Inspired”
Niall Horan – “Slow Hands”
Niall Horan – “This Town” – dedicated to Manchester
Ariana Grande – “Be Alright”
Ariana Grande – “Break Free”
Little Mix – “Wings”
Ariana Grande & Victoria Money – “Better Days”
Black Eyed Peas – “Where Is the Love?” ft. Ariana Grande
Imogen Heap – “Hide and Seek”
Ariana Grande – “My Everything” ft. Parrs Wood High School Choir
Mac Miller and Ariana Grande – “The Way”
Mac Miller – “Dang!” ft. Ariana Grande
Ariana Grande and Miley Cyrus – “Don’t Dream It’s Over”
Ariana Grande – “Side to Side”
Katy Perry – “Part of Me”
Katy Perry – “Roar”
Justin Bieber – “Love Yourself”
Justin Bieber – “Cold Water”
Ariana Grande – “Love Me Harder”
Coldplay – “Don’t Look Back in Anger” ft. Ariana Grande
Coldplay – “Fix You”
Coldplay – “Viva La Vida”
Coldplay – “Something Just Like This”
Liam Gallagher – “Rock n Roll Star”
Liam Gallagher – “Wall of Glass”
Liam Gallagher – “Live Forever” ft. Coldplay
Ariana Grande and all the other performers – “One Last Time”
Ariana Grande – “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (Encore)
Quite the show, huh? You better believe it! However, it was also incredibly emotional for everyone involved – the performers, the fans in attendance, and even the fans at home watching live. Tears were shed on and off stage during the performances and during moving speeches and words of encouragement from the performers and Scooter Braun when he introduced Ariana. There were also videos from other stars sending their love and standing with Manchester even though they couldn’t be there. Here are some of the heartwarming words.
- Marcus Mumford asked for a moment of silence to honor those lost in the attack, and then said, “Let’s not be afraid.”
- Ariana Grande recalled when she recently met Olivia’s (one of the young girls killed in the attack) mother. “She said that I should stop crying because Olivia wouldn’t have wanted me to cry.” Ariana also thanked and shared her love for the fans repeatedly throughout the show.
- “I think the kind of love and unity you are displaying is the medicine the world needs right now. So, thank you for being just that.” – Ariana Grande
- Robbie Williams leading the crowd to sing/chant “Manchester, we’re strong/ we’re strong/ we’re still singing our songs”
- The crowd chanting “Manchester”
- “There is no end to grief, that’s how we know there’s no end to love. It’s a thought we’re holding onto for these people. We’ll see you again when the stars fall from the sky.” – Bono in a video message.
- “I don’t feel or smell or hear or see any fear in this building. All we feel here tonight is love. Resilience, positivity.” – Pharrel Williams
- Before Scooter Braun introduced Ariana, he applauded and thanked the crowd for coming out even when the previous night there was yet another attack in London. “You looked fear right in the face, and you said, no, we are Manchester, and the world is watching.” Scooter also thanked the first responders and the bystanders who risked their lives to save others.
- “Don’t go forward in anger, love spreads.” – Adam, a teenager injured in the attack and lost his best friend Olivia. He asked Scooter to share the message with the audience since he was still in the hospital, to which Scooter called him a “hero.”
- “Hatred will never win, fear will never divide us, because tonight we stood with Manchester.” – Scooter Braun
- “You guys are so brave. What an amazing thing we’re doing tonight, would you not agree? Would you agree that love always wins?” – Justin Bieber
- “I’m not letting go of hope. I’m not going to let go of love. I’m not going to let go of God.” – Justin Bieber
- “God is good in the midst of the darkness. God is good in the midst of evil. God is in the midst no matter what is happening in the world, and he loves you and is here for you.” – Justin Bieber
- “He wants to know how do we treat each other; how do we help each other. So, I’m going to dedicate my life to using my name and popularity to helping charities, helping people, uniting people. We need somebody in the world to help us all make peace. So, when I die, if there’s a Heaven, I want to see it.” – A Muhammed Ali speech that played through the speakers before Liam Gallagher came on.
- “The most important responsibility we have on this planet is to take care of one another, and look at what we are here doing today.” – Miley Cyrus
- “It’s not always easy to choose love, is it? Especially in moments like these, right? It can be the most difficult thing to do. But love conquers fear, and love conquers hate, and this love that you chose will give you strength, and it is our greatest power.” – Katy Perry
As one can see, the night was full of emotional tributes and beautiful moments. Those beautiful moments and the joy that was on the crowd’s faces is what concerts are supposed to be about. I, along with half of my social media feed, could feel the outpouring of love and support through our televisions even though we were thousands of miles away. Are hearts still heavy with grief and sadness? Of course. That’s not something that goes away so easily. But for at least three hours, thousands of people were able to escape that heartbreak to feel love, connection, support, and unity with not only the entire audience, but the entire world who watched live. While it was, as expected, emotional, it was also a beautiful time to realize that Manchester – and all of society – cannot and will not be defeated. Fear will not control their lives, and music will still a unifying force. You could see it on their faces as they danced and sang together without fear or lack of hope and faith. An audience of thousands – millions including television viewers – was an audience of one unit that refuse to let evil win.
I have gained so much respect for Ariana Grande and her team of people over the last few weeks for what they’ve stepped up and accomplished. I commend her, all the other performers, their management and crew, the security and first responders, and the city of Manchester for pushing fear to the back-burner and persevering to accomplish such a stellar and beautiful event. Last I heard, TWELVE MILLION DOLLARS was raised for the families and all those impacted by the attack. Holy wow! What a triumph! Thank you, for being a light in the darkness.
I can’t help but wonder what the monsters that incite such senseless terror think of their “soft targets” now.
My thoughts, love and prayers continue to be all of those impacted by the Manchester and London tragedy, along with any other community, city, or country that has had to experience such evil. If you are reading, remember you are strong and you are not alone.
I also pray for the monsters who feel the need to incite such horror. I pray for their eyes to be opened, their hearts to feel some compassion, and for them to find the light at the end of the dark tunnel they’re in.
To the world,
Please remember that love outweighs hate and evil. Spread kindness. Be a light in the dark. Trust in God. Most importantly, enjoy your life full of laughter and good times, without fear.
Video credit to the respected owners.