With Manchester Arena set to reopen, Getintothis’ Cath Bore contemplates a different kind of normality.
The reopening of Manchester Arena tonight with the We Are Manchester benefit concert is, we hope, a sign of a return to a normality of sorts after the venue was bombed in May, resulting in the deaths of 22 people, many teenage girls or younger, members of the LGBTQ community, and their parents.
The devastation at the end of the Ariana Grande concert sent shockwaves through live music events in the UK, like dominoes toppling, one after another. Gigs in larger venues have extra stringent security checks now – Manchester Arena have advised backpacks or large bags are not permitted and fans will be screened upon arrival. Music festivals over the summer had police carrying big black guns, strolling about amongst the steam punks, glitter tattoed children and grown-ups dressed as unicorns.
We’re still very much in recovery mode as we ease into autumn. The One Love Manchester concert in June, when Ariana Grande came back to the city and brought with her Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Little Mix and Liam Gallagher, permitted everyone to give a massive sigh of relief. There were smaller benefit shows and, here on Merseyside, the Love From Liverpool album released with the likes of The Wombats and Stealing Sheep. Raising funds for the victims and their families is a wonderful thing, but extending the hand of friendship this way to our sisters and brothers in Manchester is important too. Because every little thing helps.
‘…gigs are holy ground, they’re sacred spaces made from sweat on love. Circles danced in the sand where evil lives outside. We needed to redress the balance, celebrate the art that has given us so much over the years,’ say the editors of a Gig of My Life, a zine of stories about special gigs written by musicians, fans and feminists published this weekend in response to the bombing, an act of solidarity.
We’ve all been to special gigs. The special ones have the biggest impact. There doesn’t need to be a solid, tangible reason for a show to be special, it just is.
It doesn’t have to be the best, the most accomplished, or even in a decent venue. One of the special shows this year for me was in a tiny cramped room above a vegan café in Withington. It had an audience of 14, including the support band. And it was bloody wonderful.
Special gigs might be time you see an artist for the first time, you hear that song which sets off years of loyalty. A favourite artist, or a one off you never see or hear of again, or someone you thought was past it but now, you’ve learnt, isn’t.
Special gigs are where, maybe, we meet friends, or even lovers. We see familiar faces, those we nod to but don’t really know too well. They offer a safe space, a block of time to forget problems and the crap everyday life carries with it. A place to go a bit daft and no one judges you.
We hope the Manchester Arena benefit show with Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Blossoms, poet Tony Walsh and more, is a special one for every single person there. And hope those who were at the last concert in the venue back in May get to go on and experience special gigs, lots of them, ones they cherish forever.
A return to normality, for them and everyone. Just a different kind.
The Love from Liverpool compilation release on NuNorthern Soul Records will is on sale now – you can listen and buy it from BandCamp here.