Spirit of Manchester shines through at arena reopening

Thousands of music fans returned to Manchester Arena for a reopening concert, less than four months after the bomb attack that killed 22 people.

Local heroes Noel Gallagher and Peter Kay were among the acts at the We Are Manchester gig.

The night started with a tribute to the bomb victims from Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham.

The mood among the 14,000-strong crowd was a mixture of defiance, pride, catharsis and pure enjoyment.

Mr Burnham began by reading the names of the 22 people who died when Salman Abedi detonated the bomb at the end of an Ariana Grande concert on 22 May.

The foyer area, where the bomb went off, was also reopened, but now contains a row of airport-style body scanners and brightly-coloured temporary wall coverings with slogans such as “We are entertainment”, “We are love” and “We are stronger”.

There was tight security, with backpacks banned and armed police patrolling both the exterior and the inside concourse.

The heavy security was mainly outside the auditorium, which gave the appearance of business as usual once fans got inside.

After Mr Burnham’s introduction, poet Tony Walsh delivered his rousing poem – first performed at a vigil the day after the attack – titled This Is The Place.

But any suggestion that this might be a sombre night was dispelled with the appearance of 1980s pop star Rick Astley, wearing a shirt bearing the Manchester bee emblem.

Chart star Pixie Lott, ex-Girls Aloud member Nadine Coyle, grime MC Bugzy Malone and Stockport band Blossoms also appeared on the something-for-everyone bill.

The Courteeners ramped up the atmosphere further, turning the front half of the arena into a moshing mass with their raucous indie anthems.

Most acts decided not to refer to the atrocity directly, instead preferring to talk about the city’s resilient spirit.

Courteeners singer Liam Fray summed up how the sense of pride in the city has been renewed since the attack when he declared during their first song: “Manchester, centre of the universe.”

The night was hosted by comedian Russell Kane. When a photographer came on stage to take a picture of the crowd, Kane told them: “Let’s show the world what defiance, happiness, positivity and strength look like.”

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