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Our city's unbreakable spirit ultimately stole the show

June 5, 2017 6:44 PM
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Ariana Grande was determined to return, assembling some of the world's biggest music stars in the process for One Love Manchester

The world's biggest music stars focused the eyes of the world on Manchester on Sunday night, but it was the city's unbreakable spirit that ultimately stole the show.

Manchester was centre stage for all the right reasons as Ariana Grande made her emotional return to a city that just two weeks before had suffered its darkest hour following the devastating bombing at her Manchester Arena gig.

Ariana was determined to return, assembling some of the world's biggest music stars in the process, to help begin healing the wounds of the atrocity with her One Love Manchester benefit gig.

After the London terror attack on Saturday night many questioned whether this huge concert, filled with 50,000 fans, could or should go ahead.

But there was never a doubt in the musicians' minds that the show would go on - and prove that "hatred and fear will never win".

While the likes of Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber and Black Eyed Peas may have grabbed the headlines in the lead-up to this gig, it was the wonderfully Manc moments that stole our hearts.

The impromptu ring-of-roses in the crowd that grew so huge it became more knees-up-mother-brown and the joyful ladies leading police officers a merry dance.

And you can't get much more Manc than Liam Gallagher turning up in his parka and belting out Live Forever at a surprise finale... although there was to be no reunion with brother Noel on this occasion.

Instead Coldplay's Chris Martin lifted spirits and got the crowds singing every word to Oasis' Don't Look Back in Anger, now something of an anthem to the resilience of the city after the attack.

He even managed a blast of James' Sit Down just to push his honorary Manc credentials before a poignant rendition of Fix You.

All credit to Ariana for making this night so very much a celebration of our wounded city, as a global audience of millions tuned in and the 50,000 of us lucky enough to be inside danced, laughed, sang and shed more than the odd tear along the way.

One of the most magical moments was when Ariana shared the stage with the girls of Parrs Wood High School in Didsbury.

There were few dry eyes when young Natasha Seth sang Ariana hit My Everything and began to shed a tear.

The huge hug the pop star gave her might as well have been wrapped around us all with the warm glow it gave off.

Even Manchester's most notorious element - the rain - stayed away for the occasion as Ariana and her star pals performed under a beautiful blue sky over Old Trafford.

The show, fittingly enough, had begun with the words: "Let's not be afraid" uttered by surprise opening act Marcus Mumford.

After the terrible events in London on Saturday night there was of course a sense of anxiety for many heading along.

Particularly those 14,000 who had attended Ariana's original gig on May 22 - and who were offered a free ticket to return to this Emirates Old Trafford gig.

Those fans were given priority access at the front of the stage in another classy touch from Ms Grande who has shown strength and courage far beyond her 23 years.

On the way into the ground, fans spoke of their mixed emotions attending such a packed concert, just as the arena had been that fateful night on May 22.

But there was a steely defiance even among the youngest of fans who pulled on their Ariana t-shirts and gleefully donned their flashing bunny ears.

Those packing in to Old Trafford wanted to show they would not be cowed by hate. Even those injured in the arena attack bravely did what they could to join the event, some still bandaged, others on crutches.

The concert, which sold out within minutes of going on sale just four days ago, will raise hundreds of thousands of pounds to boost the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund which will support all those affected by the attack.

Counsellors were on hand on the night to give support and advice to those who found the occasion overwhelming.

And we all owe a huge debt of honour to the police and security services who helped place a ring of steel around this event and continue to put their lives on the line to protect us all.

It was a hugely special night of entertainment for the music fans tuning in across the world, with many loving the duet between Ariana and her pal Miley Cyrus.

Fans screamed with delight as hometown heroes Take That took to the stage for a celebratory Shine, although an emotional Gary Barlow looked to the skies as he sang the poignant lyrics of Rule the World.

But it was also a night to forget worries too - Pharrell Williams and Miley Cyrus' duet of Happy was a joyous bounce under the sunny skies for fans.

Ever since the Arena attack, we have heard stories of courage and togetherness in the face of tragedy, and nowhere was this more on display than at Old Trafford last night.

The sense of fun, even from our heroic emergency services, was contrasted with the evident reality that Britain is under an increased threat level.

Armed police, which have become a familiar sight on the streets in recent days, patrolled the ground, but gamely posed for pictures with young revellers.

Around them normal Mancunians also showed togetherness with simple acts of kindness.

Staff from Tesco handed out food and drink to those queuing, and badges with the word "Love" were handed out inside.

Andrew Broadhurst, 62, gave up two tickets he had for the concert to some youngsters who were desperate to see some global music stars.

So many moments brought a tear to the eye, on a night that every Mancunian can be truly proud of.

For many, this event may now help to bring closure to the tragic events of the past two weeks.

Source: manchestereveningnews.co.uk

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