A mov­ing ex­pres­sion of re­silience

Spirit of joy, open­ness abound at Ari­ana Grande’s all-star Manch­ester show.

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - MIKAEL WOOD POP MU­SIC CRITIC

Suc­cess had a clear shape at One Love Manch­ester, the all-star ben­e­fit concert that Ari­ana Grande pre­sented Sun­day evening in that Bri­tish city.

Held less than two weeks af­ter a sui­cide bomb­ing killed 22 peo­ple as Grande fin­ished a May 22 per­for­mance at the Manch­ester Arena, Sun­day’s event needed to show that a huge crowd could gather safely without in­ci­dent — dou­bly im­por­tant given the sub­se­quent ter­ror­ist at­tack that shook Lon­don on Satur­day night.

Yet One Love Manch­ester — which brought artists in­clud­ing Cold­play, Mi­ley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Liam Gal­lagher, Phar­rell Wil­liams and Justin Bieber to the Old Traf­ford cricket sta­dium — had to do some­thing else too, and that was to demon­strate that pop mu­sic’s spirit of open­ness and op­ti­mism hadn’t been quelled by the ear­lier as­sault. Mis­sions ac­com­plished. Sun­day’s three-hour event, broad­cast and livestreamed for an au­di­ence of mil­lions on tele­vi­sion and the Internet, was a mov­ing ex­pres­sion of re­silience — by both the per­form­ers and the crowd in Manch­ester, mem­bers of which could be seen en­joy­ing them­selves in beau­ti­ful re­ac­tion shots filled with wide grins, hoisted drinks and chil­dren

seated on their par­ents’ shoul­ders.

In­tro­duc­ing her song “Side to Side,” Grande said she’d re­cently met with the mother of 15-year-old Olivia Camp­bell, who died in the bomb­ing. Camp­bell would have wanted to hear the hits, Grande said the teen’s mom told her — and so the singer de­signed Sun­day’s concert to honor a pop fan’s thirst for ebul­lience.

Ex­am­ples of joy abounded: Mar­cus Mum­ford beam­ing as he scratched out disco gui­tar licks to back up Wil­liams in “Get Lucky”; Cold­play’s Chris Martin tim­ing a leap to a burst of brightly col­ored con­fetti; Grande flirt­ing with her boyfriend, rap­per Mac Miller, dur­ing their giddy “The Way.”

Rather than wait till the end of the show to per­form, Grande ap­peared at var­i­ous points to do her songs (in­clud­ing “Be Al­right” and a throb­bing “Break Free”) and to col­lab­o­rate with other artists on the bill.

She sang “Bet­ter Days,” about find­ing shel­ter from “a war right out­side our win­dow,” with her tour opener, Vic­to­ria Monét; she later joined a choir from Manch­ester’s Parrs Wood High School — Grande em­braced one young woman clearly over­come with emo­tion — for “My Ev­ery­thing,” which in­sists, “What we got is worth fight­ing for.”

She also teamed with Cyrus for an ap­peal­ingly ragged ren­di­tion of “Don’t Dream It’s Over” by Crowded House — just one moment in this care­fully or­ga­nized pro­duc­tion when the per­form­ers pre­served some of the raw­ness that can make live mu­sic a plea­sure to ex­pe­ri­ence.

Bieber of­fered more of that in “Love Your­self ” and “Cold Wa­ter,” for which he ac­com­pa­nied him­self on acous­tic gui­tar, as nat­u­ral and un­pol­ished as some­one strum­ming in a col­lege dorm.

Robbie Wil­liams did it early in the show when he ad­mit­ted his voice was gone and asked the au­di­ence to help him sing “An­gels.”

Both times you were re­minded that you were watching a real hu­man in real time, just as the vic­tims of the May 22 at­tack had been.

To fin­ish One Love Manch­ester, Grande gath­ered most of the night’s per­form­ers on­stage as she fought back tears to sing “One Last Time.”

Then she ran into the wings, only to come back by her­self for a mas­ter­ful “Some­where Over the Rain­bow.”

She was imag­in­ing an un­trou­bled place as though she could will it into ex­is­tence.

Dave Ho­gan One Love Manch­ester

ARI­ANA GRANDE, left, and Mi­ley Cyrus per­form at One Love Manch­ester.

Danny Law­son One Love Manch­ester

ARI­ANA GRANDE per­forms at One Love Manch­ester ben­e­fit concert Sun­day.

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