Fans and stars defy terrorism, pack Ariana Grande's Manchester One Love benefit concert

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US pop singer Ariana Grande headlines a star-studded benefit gig in Manchester in aid of victims of the bombing that rocked the Northern English city last month.
Ariana Grande on stage during her One Love Manchester concert at Old Trafford Cricket Ground in Manchester, Britain, on June 4, 2017. PHOTO: EPA
US singer Ariana Grande performs during the One Love Manchester benefit concert for the victims of the Manchester Arena terror attack at Old Trafford on June 4, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

MANCHESTER (REUTERS) - Tearful fans and some of the world's biggest stars turned their noses up in defiance of terrorists as they packed benefit concert for victims of the Manchester bombing, on Sunday (June 4), just a day after another militant attack in London.

Emotions ran high as fans - many with colourful face make-up, costume bunny ears and the popular Manchester Bee t-shirts - poured into the city's Old Trafford cricket ground for the show headlined by pop star Ariana Grande, whose May 22 concert ended with 22 dead and more than 100 wounded when a bomber struck.

Some broke down in tears, while others clapped, danced and joked with police officers on horseback patrolling the crowds.

A sell-out crowd of more than 50,000, many of them clutching "For our angels" signs, fell silent for a minute before Mumford & Sons frontman Marcus Mumford opened the show.

Hastily organised as a benefit concert for those killed and injured, many of them children, the "One Love Manchester" event showcased one of the biggest single gatherings of musical talent this year.

Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Coldplay, Robbie Williams, Pharrell Williams, Miley Cyrus, Take That, Usher, the Black Eyed Peas, Little Mix and One Direction's Niall Horan all hit the stage.

The event began with a moment of silence for the victims of the bombing less than two weeks ago.

"I don't want to feel or hear or see any fear in this building," US singer Pharrell Williams told the crowd as he led them in his hits Get Lucky and Happy. "The only thing we'll feel here tonight is love, and positivity," he said.

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Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham takes the stage at the One Love Manchester benefit concert at Emirates Old Trafford in Greater Manchester on June 4, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

"Fellow singer Miley Cyrus joined the rendition and said:"I'd like to wrap my arms around each and every one of you and thank you ... The most important responsibility we have in this time is to take care of one another."

Those who attended Grande's May 22 concert were given free tickets to attend Sunday's concert, with some persuaded to attend by their affection for the pop star.

"I'm real excited, but real scared," Shannon Beetham, 14, who was injured in last month's bombing, told Reuters. "We were there in Manchester (arena) as well, I was hit."

Scores of police backed up by armed officers watched over the crowd. Helicopters circled overhead and officers on horseback made their way through the crowds. Attendees were patted down and sniffer dogs patrolled the grounds.

Police had warned concert-goers of additional checks after Saturday's attacks in London that left seven dead when a van ploughed into pedestrians and three attackers stabbed people.

Laura Simpson and her daughter Milly, 10, said they also had doubts about attending the concert, after Milly narrowly avoided being involved the attack last month.

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"She left 5 minutes early because she was tired," Laura said of her daughter, who was dressed in an Ariana Grande t-shirt."We weren't sure about coming today, were we? Everyone's just a little bit on edge."

The event opened with a moment of silence for the victims of the bombing, followed by poet Tony Walsh reading his poem "This is the Place" - which drew wide attention in the days after the attack.

Music fans gather at the One Love Manchester benefit concert at Emirates Old Trafford in Greater Manchester on June 4, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

The concert was broadcast in Britain by the BBC, which said networks in 38 other countries would also broadcast the show, and streamed live on YouTube, Twitter, MTV and others.

"We're here to show our support to Manchester more than anything. These people aren't going to dampen our spirits," said 34-year-old Abdullah Mala.

His eight-year-old daughter Hannah had left the Grande concert just before the deadly bombing and said she was "happy to be back" to see some of pop's biggest names.

Proceeds from the concert will be donated to a fund set up to help the victims' families.

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Rachel Jea, 32, said she was at Grande's previous Manchester concert and felt it was important to attend Sunday's show to regain trust after the bombing.

"Our grandparents went through world wars so that we could live in freedom and now it's starting again," she said. "It just shouldn't be like this."

Her nine-year-old daughter Scarlet adopted a defiant tone, telling others not to be afraid. "We need to try and find a way to overcome the fear. I'm really happy to come tonight, it is good for Ariana, it wasn't her fault what happened."

Music fans gather at the One Love Manchester benefit concert at Emirates Old Trafford in Greater Manchester on June 4, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

Grande, who described herself as "broken" following the May 22 bombing, immediately returned to the US, interrupting her Dangerous Woman world tour.

But the 23-year-old singer pledged to return for the charity concert, writing on her Instagram: "Music is meant to heal us, to bring us together, to make us happy.

"We will continue in honour of the ones we lost, their loved ones, my fans and all affected by this tragedy," she added.

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Grande on Friday made a surprise visit to injured fans being treated at the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital.

Twenty-four children from a local school, some of whom were at the targeted Manchester Arena concert, will also join Grande on stage to perform her hit song "My Everything".

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