They say that you can tell a lot about a person by their reaction to adversity.
When one thinks of the victims of any atrocity, it’s easy to think of those affected directly, and rightly so. Those people are at that tragic location at that point in time for a purpose. In Manchester on 22nd May, that reason for being there when Salman Abedi decided it necessary to kill children at the Manchester Arena, was Ariana Grande.
Ariana had not personally invited any of the concert goers to be there, as far as I know. Certainly one would expect that not be the case for the vast majority. All the people went because they wanted to be there, either directly to watch the show or to help those who did. Yet the aftermath of such an horrific event must have been terrible for her.
Last night, she staged the One Love Manchester concert, the proceeds of which will go towards supporting the victims and their families.
The concert was pitched perfectly. Preparing a show that accurately reflects the sentiment of the occasion while not being too downbeat must be a difficult balancing act. Ariana said that the mother of one the victims of the attack said that her daughter would have wanted the hits, and the set list perfectly managed to achieve the goal of party, celebration, remembrance and defiance.
From the moment Marcus Mumford set the tone with the simple “Let’s not be afraid” after a period of silence, this was hours of feels. Ariana was introduced to the crowd fairly early on in proceedings and performed for most of the evening, either solo of with guests. Highlights were Parrs Wood High School’s Choir and Coldplay. Songs with obvious lyrics from Robbie Williams and Black Eyed Peas took on added weight. And of course there was going to be an appearance from a Gallagher!
Amongst the talk of staying strong, performing in such a circumstance was obviously difficult for some.
The reason, though, that this concert should be deemed a great success is that, for three hours against this backdrop, terrorism was forgotten. In an interview, Miley Cyrus said that she’d back Ariana Grande in any way around this sort of event, alluding to be it being a regular thing.
Concerts, though, are a regular thing. Live music has the power to, maybe not heal, but to help. It provides happiness in normal circumstances and it’s a shame that certain people can be influenced in to believing that this is bad.
The final word has to go to Ariana Grande. Before the bombing, I knew very little about her. I was surprised (from the little that I did know) that the key demographic of her following was so young. Wearing a baggy white sweatshirt, she looked like she needed a hug. She looked vulnerable. In the midst of the now retracted criticism from some, one forgets that this is a 23 year old.
Speaking to the BBC before the concert, Peter Hook of New Order said that Ariana would have felt responsibility for what happened at the Arena. One understands, but no-one believes that.
You know who else related to all these events was 23 years old? Abedi. His actions showed that he couldn’t deal with the responsibility of it when that responsibility was actually his. He couldn’t face the aftermath. He bottled it.
Whatever the size of the part Ariana Grande played in the organisation of the event, the part she played in its fulfilment demonstrated a courage beyond her 23 years. With such an event that obviously won’t bring back those who died, Ariana Grande has had far greater an effect than the coward with whom she shared proximity on that unfortunate day last month.