Arriving in Manchester a week after the arena attack feels oddly similar to any other trip to the city, in that steady rainfall greets us. Stepping off the train at Oxford Road, you can immediately see a line of people who've queued for hours to watch Liam Gallagher's first ever solo show. The O2 Ritz is hosting his concert in aid of the families affected by last week's atrocity, a much needed antidote to the unhelpful response given by another of Manchester music idols.
What's not so expected, as I arrive, are the young kids with fresh bee tattoos on their arms. Across town, posters with the same bee read "Never Mind the Terrorists: We Are Manchester" in the style of the Sex Pistols' debut album artwork. A sense of defiance and unity hangs in the air. As I join the queue, alone, to chat with the fans about the city and its musical legacy, a stranger offers me a beer within a minute. Working my way up and down the line I encounter people who feel buoyant and proud—the city's been bruised by what's happened, but won't give in. Here's some of what I heard.
Susie and Jeanine
Noisey: What are you hoping tonight will bring?
Susie: It's solidarity, isn't it? Everyone is here and it's a celebration of music and people and solidarity.
How was the city been for you this last week?
Jeanine: It's been a bit eerie to be honest, but people have really been pulling together. I've noticed things like friends, people who I haven't spoken to for years or maybe had a disagreement with over the years, have all come together recently. It's brought us all together.
Matthew and His Mates
Noisey: What do you hope tonight brings for you and the city?
Matthew: Hopefully Noel Gallagher will turn up and there will be a massive reunion and it will be brilliant. I think Noel is really good with charity; he's done a lot in the past, so I think if anything charity will bring them together. It's been a hard week and It does play in the back of your mind but you have to move on and get on with life. It's been mad how everyone has rallied together, it's been really good because it's terrible and sickening what's happened but chin up and move on.
Excited Friend: The city's been quiet and worried. Even my Mrs was worried; she wouldn't come here, she gave her ticket away.
Friend: Nah, it's all right. I'm pretty chuffed. I'm with my mates instead!
Keely and Gaz
What do you want from tonight and this show?
Keely: A proposal from Liam would be nice. Sorry, Gaz. Just to be here is enough to be honest. We were at the Courteneers gig on Saturday and that was mega. So to do a double whammy and come and see Liam tonight is amazing.
Have you been out and about in the city much this week?
Keely: We came up on Thursday to go to St Anne's Square for the vigil and it was very quiet and emotional. You can feel it getting back to normal though, it's getting a bit louder, things are starting to feel a bit better. Things like this truly help. It helps us keep calm and carry on.
Aidan and Matt
Noisey: You lads look young to be Oasis fans from the first time around?
Aidan: I think being Mancunian you're brought up on it.
Matt: They are just there from the very beginning and as you listen to them more and more, you find yourself hooked.
As locals, how have things been this last week?
Aidan: It's been hard. It's been really hard. It has showed you how much unity the city has got though; I don't think we've seen this anywhere else in the world. I remember seeing the Paris attacks and them coming together but there's been nothing like this. It's not just affecting Mancunians, it's affecting the whole world, you see things on Twitter from people in America that you didn't even know knew about Manchester. It is really touching.
Scott and Sarah
How have people been in Manchester this last week?
Scott: People have really come together, people are really looking at each other in the street and smiling and saying hello. Manchester is a friendly city but you never see stuff like that.
Sarah: I've never seen a response to a terrorist attack like we have in this city this week. We always knew Manchester was special but more than ever this week. United fan Reds and City fan blues holding hands, it's never happened before.
Inside the gig the DJ plays a Manchester greatest hits set before stage time and the crowd are already at a level of excitement usually reserved for encores. By the time it plays, you can hardly hear The Fall's "Hit The North" above the chants of "Manchester, la, la, la" before Gallagher comes on stage, swaggers to the microphone, and says the "I Am the Walrus" Beatles lyrics: "I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together." He covers ground from "Rock 'n' Roll Star" and "Morning Glory" to new single "Wall of Glass," with the added bonus of a Bonehead cameo during "Be Here Now."
By the time he returns for an encore, Gallagher literally has to wait to start because the booming echo of "stand up for the 22" shouted out around the room in sweaty unison may drown him out. He then closes on an a cappella version of "Live Forever" as 22 candles for the victims killed last Monday gently flicker on stage. He parts with an "I love you, Manchester."
The singing and the chanting continues out into the streets—from "Don't Look Back In Anger' to one about "sticking Isis up your arse"—as every security guard I pass makes a point of saying good night and wishing people a safe journey home. As I sit outside Oxford Road station a young lad approaches me to chat about the gig and offers me some of his beer, before saying Johnny Marr told him he must form a band. Then he jams his iPhone earphones into my ear to play me demos while he talks about hoping to be one of Manchester's true greats. Business as usual. Well, almost.
You can find Daniel on Twitter.
(All gig photos taken by and courtesy of David Nelson via PR)