By Scott T. Sterling
“Despite all the things that have been going on… I don’t feel or smell or hear or see any fear in this building,” Pharrell Williams said to the sold-out crowd of 50,000-plus at the Old Trafford cricket ground early in Ariana Grande’s ‘One Love Manchester’ benefit concert. “All we feel here tonight is love and positivity.”
It was a sentiment prevalent throughout the more than three-hour event, which saw a cavalcade of music superstars performing a slew of hits in honor of the 22 people killed and dozens more injured after Grande’s show at Manchester Arena just two weeks earlier (May 22).
The concert was rife with emotional highlights and was still packed with unexpected moments despite a mostly accurate set-list circulating online before the show even began.
One of the biggest surprises of the night came late in the concert, with Liam Gallagher taking the stage to perform a solo set heavy with Oasis hits, including “Rock and Roll Star.” While his estranged brother, Noel, didn’t appear, Chris Martin of Coldplay joined Liam for the last song in the set, Oasis single “Live Forever.”
Martin and Coldplay also paid homage to Oasis with a performance of “Don’t Look Back in Anger” during their stirring set towards the end of the show.
Headliner Grande was a perpetual presence throughout, performing solo hits as well as joining other artists, including hitting the stage with Black Eyed Peas for a stirring take on “Where is the Love,” filling in for Fergie. Grande also joined Miley Cyrus for an acoustic take on 1986 Crowded House hit, “Don’t Dream It’s Over.”
An emotional highlight came when Grande joined the Parrs Wood High School Choir for a version of her song, “My Everything,” which had audience members, performers and many of those watching the live stream in tears.
Justin Bieber’s two-song acoustic set of “Love Yourself” and “Cold Water” galvanized the crowd, ending as the pop star praised the resilience of the city and the fans between sobs.
The non-stop hit parade included performances from Katy Perry, Pharrell Williams, One Direction’s Niall Horan, Little Mix, Imogen Heap, Robbie Williams, Marcus Mumford, Mac Miller and Victoria Monet, with video messages from a wide range of stars, including Stevie Wonder, U2, Demi Lovato and Kendall Jenner.
“Last night this nation was challenged, and all of you were challenged, and you had a decision to make if you were going to come out here tonight. And this is so beautiful,” Grande’s manager, Scooter Braun said from the stage in reference to the horrific terror attacks in London last night (June 3). “You guys made that decision. You looked fear right in the face and you said, no, we are Manchester, and the world is watching.”
Proceeds from the show will go directly to the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund which was set up by the Manchester City Council in partnership with the British Red Cross, in aid of grieving families and victims of the horrific attack on Grande’s concert on May 22.
Watch the concert in its entirety below.