LOS ANGELES — The One Love Manchester concert, a benefit and tribute to the victims of the suicide bombing outside Ariana Grande’s concert in the city last month, brought some 50,000 people together at the Old Trafford Cricket Ground on Sunday. Some 14,000 of those tickets were reserved for people who attended the Grande concert, with the front section of the grounds set aside for them.
The show began with poet Tony Walsh, wearing a Forever Manchester shirt, giving an impassioned speech about the city’s history of unity. Marcus Mumford started off the show asking for a moment of silence. “After recent events in Manchester, in London, and around the rest of the world, would you please stand for a moment of silence,” he said, as the crowd grew quiet. With his head bowed, he said “let’s not be afraid” and then performed a solo acoustic version of “Timshel.” It’s hard to imagine a more fitting song to begin the tribute.
“And you are the mother, the mother of your baby child/ The one to whom you gave life, and you have your choices/ And these are what make man great, his ladder to the stars/ But you are not alone in this, and you are not alone in this/ As brothers we will stand and we’ll hold your hand.”
He then said “Give it up for Manchester’s own Take That,” and the hometown heroes launched into an uplifting set of their own, leading the crowd in singalongs of their hits “Shine” and then “Giants.”
The group’s Gary Barlow said, “Everyone’s been affected by this, but right now we want everyone to sing loud and proud, launching into “Rule the World”:
“You light the skies up above me, a star, so bright you blind me/ Don’t close your eyes, don’t fade away.”
The group then gave the stage to a tracksuit-clad Robbie Williams, who wore a Justin Bieber “Purpose” hoodie and launched into an a cappella version of his “Strong,” with lyrics altered to salute the city: “Manchester , we’re strong.” He then followed with an equally rousing version of “Angels.”
Williams then gave the stage to a video tribute from U2, performing onstage in the U.S., with a brief speech from Bono that culminated with him saying, “There is no end to grief, that’s how we know there is no end to love.”
The stage then returned to Manchester, where Pharrell Williams launched immediately into a driving version of “Get Lucky,” his 2013 collaboration with Daft Punk. He was accompanied by dancers and Marcus Mumford, the latter of whom played the song’s signature riff on a white Telecaster; cameras flashed to Miley Cyrus, glad in shorts, knee-high white boots, a white tee and white jacket, singing along on the side of the stage.
After the song, Pharrell said, “I’m bowing because despite all the thing that have been going on in this place, I don’t feel or smell or hear or see any fear in this building. All we feel here tonight is love, resilience, positivity, and you know what, I hate to be corny, but it actually makes me, uh, Miley Cyrus.”
Pharrell then welcomed her to the stage for a duet on his global hit “Happy,” for which the two moved to the front of the T-shaped stage.
Cyrus followed the song with a long speech about her Happy Hippie charitable organization and Grande’s contributions to it, citing her as the first musician who agreed to support it.
“As humans we should always be who we say we are. And Ariana I think has proved that. She says she’s a good role model for so many of you girls out here, and I think she’s proved that by putting this together and allowing all of us to be a part of it. but for tonight, I’m here for all of you all….I’ve always loved Manchester.
“I wish she were here right now so I could give her a big hug.” She then performed a powerful version of her song “Inspired,” accompanied only by an acoustic guitarist.
One Direction’s Niall Horan took the stage to a rapturous applause for his song “Slow Hands.” He took a moment to thank the crowd for the welcome he’s always received from Manchester. “We love you, and we’re with you,” and then dedicated “This Town” to the city.
Bieber/Grande manager Scooter Braun then took the stage with fellow organizers, British promoters Melvin Benn and Simon Moran, and began by thanking promoter Live Nation, the City of Manchester, the British Red Cross, the BBC, the artists, the audience and “My friend Ariana Grande — all of us around the world are so grateful to you for stepping up and taking action.” He then spoke to the audience and said, referring to the terrorist attacks in London Saturday night, “We were challenged last night and you had a decision whether you were going to come out tonight. You looked fear in the face — and you’re here.”
“Manchester, your bravery is our hope. fear will never divide us, because on this day we all stand with Manchester.”
He introduced Grande by saying that after the attack, ‘She called me and said Scooter, if we do nothing i can’t live with that. We must do something.’ She’s one of the bravest people I know.”
Grande then took the stage, preceded by her dancers, smiling widely and wearing “One Love Manchester sweatshirt.” She performed two songs but kept her comments to a minimum, just saying “Manchester, make some noise!” — but her presence alone spoke volumes.
Grande then gave way to a video from Stevie Wonder, who said: “I’m with all of you in Manchester. We all know that love is truly the key. I don’t care what ethnicity you are, what religion you are. Love really is the way. And anyone that tries to make anyone think that things of destruction have anything to do with God, with Allah, they’re a lie. Yes, I stand with you, Manchester.” He then freestyled a song, accompanying himself on a small electronic keyboard.
Next up were Little Mix, who had the tough job of following Grande and Wonder but delivered an energetic and harmony-driven version of “Wings.”
Grande then came back out with Victoria Monet and performed their song “Better Days,” seated on the stage in matching jeans and “One Love” sweatshirts.
The Black Eyed Peas then made a surprise performance of “Where Is the Love?,” with Grande remaining onstage to fill the role of Fergie, who recently announced her departure from the group. As the song reached its end Grande teared up and hugged the group’s Will.I.Am.
After saying “Manchester, I love you so, so much,” Grande introduced a singer “who’s been one of my idols since I was 11 years old: Imogen Heap,” who is probably best known to non-British fans as Taylor Swift’s collaborator on “Clean,” the closing track on “1989.” The singer embraced Grande and then sat down at the piano to perform a slow version of her song “Hide and Seek.”
After a speech from soccer superstar David Beckham, a children’s choir sang Grande’s “My Everything” — she joined them mid-song, embarced the lead singing as the cameras flashed to many people in the crowd weeping.
Grande then said, “Tonight is all about love, am I right?” and then, naturally, introduced her boyfriend, rapper Mac Miller, who joined her for their tag-team “The Way.”
After a solo spot from Mac Miller, Cyrus joined Grande for an acoustic-driven take on Crowded House’s 1986 “Don’t Dream It’s Over.” Cyrus had changed into checkered pants and shoes and was wearing a black “I [heart] MCR” shirt. The pair embraced and held hands during the song, and led the audience in an arm-wave during the song’s instrumental coda, finishing the song poignantly on the line “You know they won’t win.”
Grande then made a brief speech thanking the crowd for the unity they’ve shown, and spoke of meeting the mother of Olivia Campbell, one of the young people killed in the suicide bombing. “I had the pleasure of meeting Olivia’s mommy a few days ago,” she said “And as soon as I met her I started crying and she told me to stop crying, she said Olivia wouldn’t have wanted me to cry.” She then laughed when saying, “She said Olivia would wanted to hear the hits” — and then launched into “Side to Side.”
The tender moment was jarred by a white-clad Katy Perry marching onstage with a forceful “Manchester, how ya doin’ tonight?!
“It’s a beautiful night, isn’t it? Thank you for having me,” she continued. “I’m so honored and humbled to be here tonight to share and spread love…. It’s not easy to always 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 we choose will give you strength, and it’s our greatest power.”
She asked the audience to reach out and touch someone. “I encourage you to choose love even when it’s difficult. Let no one take that away from you!”
The introduction led surprisingly into a gentle, acoustic version of “Part of Me,” with gentle backing from her backing singers. Katy then amped up the volume again, yelling “We will not be silenced!” and leading the band into a powerful take on “Roar.”
After a long, dramatic pause, Justin Bieber came out, wearing a bright yellow hoodie and a red-white-and-blue jacket. He spoke briefly about fighting evil with love, then said “maybe I should just play a song?” and launched into a solo version of “Love Yourself,” accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. He followed with an acoustic take on his collaboration with Major Lazer, “Cold Water.”
Grande then took the stage again for a solid version of her collaboration with The Weeknd, “Love Me Harder,” the inadvertent comic highlight of which came when the camera flashed to Katy Perry on the side of the stage, singing along as she ate a vanilla ice cream cone.
Coldplay frontman Chris Martin and guitarist Johnny Buckland then took the stage alongside Grande. “Ariana, we all want to say thank you to you for being so strong and so wonderful,” Martin said. “You’ve been singing a lot for us so I think we in Britain want to sing for you.” Seizing the opportunity for a Manchester moment, he burst into Oasis’ 1995 hit “Don’t Look Back in Anger” as Grande led the crowd — which obviously knew every word — in a singalong.
The rest of the group took the stage for “Fix You” and the day’s biggest production numbers. Martin transformed into his aerobic arena persona as fireworks were set off and confetti rained down on the crowd during the song’s climax, segueing into “Viva la Vida.” They then briefly brought things down for their Chainsmokers collaboration “Something Just Like This,” its intense intro got a bit of comic relief when a star-shaped piece of confetti became stuck to Martin’s forehead as he sang while kneeling on the stage floor.
Yet it was all preamble for the closing performance: Former Oasis singer Liam Gallagher and his band rolled out a rough and raw version of “Rock and Roll Star,” the first song from Oasis’ 1994 debut album. Liam wore one of his trademark bright-color, oversized parkas and banged on percussion instruments. He then broke into his new single “Wall of Glass” — premiered at a benefit for Manchester victims just a few days ago — before wrapping, accompanied by Martin and Bucknell on guitars, with a powerful version of Oasis’ “Live Forever.” Gallagher lived up to his image by sticking his tongue out at Bucknell as he soloed. As the song ended, the singer walked up to the front of the stage and tossed his tambourine into the crowd and the three musicians walked offstage at exactly 9:59 p.m.
Joined by most of the evening’s performers, Grande took the stage and thanked the audience. Weeping as she spoke, many of her words were obscured but there was a lot of “Thank you so, so much” and “I love you.” The performers sang along for a version of her hit “Right There” — and then Grande walked to the front of the stage and concluded the show with a version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” accompanied only by a keyboardist.
With the stage bathed in magenta lights, she delivered the song’s final verse a second time, gave one more “Thank you, I love you so much,” and waved as she exited the stage.
It capped a concert that, for all of the guest performers, was very much led by Grande, who showed remarkable poise — considering everything she and the city have been through in these past few weeks.