Tens of thousands of defiant fans have attended Ariana Grande’s One Love benefit concert for the victims of the Manchester terror attack.
The crowd marked an emotionally charged one minute’s silence in memory of the victims of the atrocities in the past fortnight before Marcus Mumford became the first A-list act to take to the stage at the Old Trafford cricket ground.
Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Little Mix, Katy Perry, Pharrell Williams, the Black Eyed Peas, Take That, Robbie Williams, Coldplay and Niall Horan were among the star-studded line-up performing for free to raise money for the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund.
Security, understandably, was strict with both staff and music fans told any bag larger than A5 (half the size of an A4 sheet of paper) would have to be left in a designated drop zone.
Rick Thompson, 35, who arrived at the concert with his daughter Erica, 10, admitted he had been “50-50” about even attending the event, but defiantly brought his young daughter along after surprising her with the tickets and seeing that she was “just so excited”.
Outside the venue, Erica herself doesn’t seem phased by the emotional context of the night, telling Yahoo: “All I want is a high-five from Ariana, she’s my hero.”
Also there was 24-year-old Ezra Veng-Christensen, who was a friend of Martyn Hett – one of the 22 victims of the Manchester attack .
He said that he was wearing the same outfit as Hett as a mark of solidarity, and that he was feeling “very sad and majorly nervous” but that he felt safe due to the extra security that had been laid on at the event.
The front section of the venue was reserved for those who were at Ariana’s original concert on 22 May, with one of the teen patrons saying before the show: “It’s really emotional, it’s going to be an emotional night for everyone.”
Marcus Mumford started the show with a moment’s silence for the victims of the attack just after 7pm this evening, he then told the crowd: “Let’s not be afraid”, before going on to a moving performance of Mumford & Sons’ track Timeshel.
Take That then burst onto the stage, opening with a performance of their hit song ‘Let It Shine’, with Gary Barlow later telling the crowd: “We want you to stand strong, look at the sky and sing loud and proud”.
The group then introduced their former bandmate, Robbie Williams, with Robbie insisting that they joined him for a group bow before they left the stage – with Gary Barlow, Mark Owen and Howard Donald also performing their own headline show at Birmingham tonight.
Robbie then performed his re-worked hit track ‘Strong’ to the 50,000-strong audience, with the lyrics coming up on the screen, reading: “Manchester we’re strong, we’re still singing our song.”
Pharrell Williams was next up, with eagle-eyed viewers spotting Miley Cyrus and the Black Eyed Peas’ dancing side-of-stage whilst he performed his hit song ‘Lucky’, only for Miley to join him onstage for a duet of Pharrell’s popular track ‘Happy’.
Speaking to the crowd before he introduced the song, Pharrell defiantly shared: “Despite all the things that have gone on in this place, I don’t feel or smell or hear or see any fear in this building.
“All I feel is love, resilience, and positivity.”
Miley then took over the stage, praising her best friend Ariana for organising the concert, telling concert-goers: “The most important responsibility that we have on this planet is to take care of one another.”
One Direction’s Niall Horan, a close friend of Ariana Grande’s, was next up, performing his new summer single ‘Slow Hands’ and dedicating his debut solo single, ‘This Town’ to the victims of the Manchester attack.
Ariana’s manager, Scooter Braun, then made a surprise appearance on stage, thanking all of the organisers of the event as well as the group of performers for flying out for the gig at short notice.
He also paid tribute to Ariana herself, Manchester’s first responders and all of the members of the public who risked their own lives to help others following last week’s tragic attack.
Recalling his and Ariana’s visit to victims of the attack at the local children’s hospital on Friday, Scooter said: “I went with Ariana to the children’s hospital and I’m proud to say that there’s a TV set up and those kids are watching live so please say ‘hello’ to all of those kids.
“I promised one of those kids, 15-year-old Adam, that I’d pass on a message for him, he told me: ‘Scooter, make sure you tell them don’t go forward in anger, love spreads’ – Adam, if you’re watching this you’re our hero tonight.
“Fear will never divide us, on this day we all stand with Manchester.
“About a week ago, Ariana called me and told me: ‘If we do nothing, I can’t live with myself. We must do something.’ She is one of the bravest people I know.”
Ariana then took the stage, giving two brilliant performances and then disappearing off stage whilst Little Mix performed before returning with the Black Eyed Peas for a much-speculated collaboration of the group’s 2003 anti-hate track ‘Where Is The Love?’.
David Beckham also sent in a video message to the crowd, with the former Manchester United star sending his love to everybody at the concert and expressing his sorrow for not being able to join the rest of the concert-goers.
Later, Ariana’s boyfriend Mac Miller joined the star onstage for two performances before Ari reintroduced her best friend Miley Cyrus to the stage where they sang a moving duet of ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’.
Expressing her love to the crowd, Ariana revealed that she met with the mother of 15-year-old victim Olivia Campbell, recalling that she was told that Olivia wouldn’t want tears and sadness, instead a fun-filled concert, with the 23-year-old singer going on to up the fun factor with a performance of her upbeat track ‘Side to Side’.
Next up was Katy Perry, who took to the stage as the sun set with a poignant message to viewers about the importance of choosing love.
Speaking to the crowd ahead of her rendition of hit single ‘Part Of Me’, Katy shared: “It’s not always easy to choose love – especially in times like these, right?
“It’s the most difficult thing to do but love conquers fear and love conquers hate and it’s the bravest thing to do.
“I encourage you to choose love even when it’s difficult, let no-one take that away from you.”
She then encouraged the crowd to touch one another and tell everybody around them that they love them.
And it wasn’t just Katy who had love on the mind, with popstar Justin Bieber also leading the crowd in a chant of “Love!”, telling them that love will always win in the end.
The star delighted fans with two performances before breaking down in tears as he praised God and asked those in the crowd to join him in his declaration of love to God.
Later, Coldplay took to the stage and gave a showstopping performance of Manchester’s unofficial anthem, Oasis’ ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ as well as a whole selection of their own hits.
Following Coldplay’s set, and after much anticipation, Manchester local Liam Gallagher made a surprise appearance on stage, however, without his brother Noel as anticipated by Oasis fans.
Earlier this week, Liam was forced to deny speculation that he was reuniting with his brother at One Love Manchester after the Black Eyed Peas’ Taboo tagged Oasis in a post about tonight’s concert.
Taboo insisted that the post was “human error”, with Liam saying that he wouldn’t be performing at the gig as he has a show elsewhere that night.
Closing the show, all of tonight’s performers joined Ariana on stage for a moving rendition of her hit song ‘One Last Time’, which she officially re-released earlier today with all proceeds going towards victims of the Manchester terror attack.
The star broke down as she thanked everybody for coming out this evening, rounding the evening up with: “Manchester, I love you so, so much.”
She then returned to the stage alone to sing ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’, moving the majority of people in the crowd to tears.
As she finished the song, Ariana was also overwhelmed with emotion as she wiped away tears and thanked fans before walking off stage.
All proceeds from tonight’s benefit concert went to the We Love Manchester Fund, which is helping all who was affected by the terrorist attack.