After everything that Ariana Grande has been through in the last couple years, the fact that she's still performing every night like a total pro on her Sweetener World Tour is an absolute triumph. But one show was particularly special for both Ari and her fans. On Sunday, Aug. 25, Ariana Grande performed at Manchester Pride, putting on an emotional but meaningful set for fans. It was the singer's first time performing in the city since 2017, over two years after a suicide bomber set off an explosion that killed 22 people after her concert.
Grande poignantly opened her show with "No Tears Left To Cry," the first single she released in the wake of the Manchester tragedy in April 2018, and followed up with "Be Alright," her anthem of encouragement and self-assurance released in 2016. Quickly, she thanked the audience for welcoming her back to the city, but admitted that she couldn't say everything that was on her mind due to her nerves.
"I'm so happy to be with you, so thank you for having me," she said to the crowd, according to the UK's Press Association (PA), as reported by CNN. "Sorry, I'm so nervous. I had so much more to say but I'm really very overwhelmed. So thank you."
Grande's headlining Pride set marked her first major return to Manchester since her One Love Manchester charity concert, organized in the aftermath of the attack. Huge stars like Coldplay, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, and Katy Perry joined her at the event, which raised millions for families of the victims. Days after, the city made Grande its first "honorary citizen" in recognition of her response to the tragedy.
Prior to her return, it was very evident that Grande was excited about coming back to the city for Pride, tweeting her fans when she was on her way to the show. "love u so much," she wrote, "can’t wait to give u all our love. you’re my heart in every way. see u soon."
The singer performed a brief but powerful nine songs during her set, including hits like "Side to Side" and "7 Rings." And of course, she couldn't finish her show without acknowledging the LGBTQ community, which she did by waving a rainbow flag while singing "Break Free". “I just wanted to wish you all a very happy Pride,” she told the crowd. "The gays have always had my heart, personally. I spent some of the happiest times of my teenage years singing in gay bars in New York City."
Of course, the show wasn't without its critics, as some ticket holders complained on Twitter that they weren't allowed into the venue after 7p.m., despite having no warning of any such rule, as reported by the BBC. That said, videos from her set make it seem like most of the audience was in full support of Grande's return to Manchester.
Grande concluded her show by performing an intimate acoustic rendition of "One Last Time," a 2014 single that she re-released shortly after the attack to pay tribute to the victims, and a song that has taken on a symbolic meaning, especially to British fans, in the aftermath of the attack. It was a fitting finale to what was an emotional yet special experience for both Grande and the audience, and one that they will surely remember forever.