Why music was always going to be at the heart of Manchester’s response to terror
The circumstances of the recent terrorist atrocity in Manchester meant that the city’s reaction was always going to be inextricably tied to its musical heritage.
The location of the attack at the city’s biggest live venue, the targets of it – young music fans – and the fact that it seemed to take
aim at something that Manchester is famous for made sure of that.
In truth, though, music is so important to the city that it would doubtless have formed the crux of local residents’ resistance to such barbarity, even if it music itself hadn’t been at the heart of the incident itself. So many of the city’s most famous musical exports are known as much for promoting togetherness and defiance as they are for their chord progressions or melodies; there’s a reason, after all, why The Stone Roses – buoyed as they were by the euphoric unity of their huge comeback gigs at Heaton Park in 2012 – chose to return last year with a song that extolled this virtues, ‘All for One’.
Choruses and guitar riffs roared back at the bands and a sense of solidarity amongst those gathered.
Perhaps it’s related to the fact that Manchester is the footballing capital of Britain, but those Roses shows – as well as the final Oasis concerts back in 2009 – were always closer in atmospheric terms to packed terraces, with choruses and guitar riffs roared back at the bands and a sense of solidarity amongst those gathered that suggested that the communal experience was perhaps the most appealing thing about the gigs – that feeling that everybody was on the same side, cheering for the same thing.
A lot of that is down to the disproportionate importance of Manchester as a music town relative to its size and geography. The world’s most famous nightclub should, by rights, have been in New York, London or Berlin. Not the north of England, yet The Hacienda is now the stuff of legend. Before it actually happened, you would’ve gotten long odds on biggest band of the nineties emerging from a council estate in Burnage, and yet, Oasis were so big by 1996 that one in every twenty Britons applied for tickets to their supergigs at Knebworth. When the Sex Pistols delivered the single most influential rock show in history in 1976. You’d have imagined it happening in Los Angeles or Paris, not the Lesser Free Trade Hall. The chances of just one of those things happening in Manchester seemed slim. That all of them did – and that so many hugely influential bands have emerged from the city – is a testament to what a cultural bedrock music provides there. It’s something that seeps out of so many of the records that were made here, from the industrial gloom of Joy Division to The Smiths’ wry northern humour to the Gallaghers’ cocky charm.
“after all, this is a city with music written into its DNA.”
That spirit was perfectly encapsulated on Sunday at the One Love Manchester benefit concert. How many other cities could have pulled together such a large-scale event at such short notice, scarcely two weeks after staring horror in the face? Where else in the world could draw in as many megastars as Ariana Grande did, especially when they ewre giving their time up for free? And how many other places could draw 50,000 defiant music fans so soon after they’d been targeted by terror? Perhaps Manchester’s the only place it could have transpired – after all, this is a city with music written into its DNA.