THE final notes of Ariana Grande’s encore were still wafting above a sea of pink balloons and beaming young faces as she left the stage at Manchester Arena on the evening of May 22. According to an insider, the artist, 23, had “just given one of the best performances” of her Dangerous Woman tour, and as she and her crew headed for their dressing rooms, they were buzzed on a natural high. It was at that very moment that the terrorist’s bomb ripped through the arena. “We had no idea what was happening,” recalled Ariana’s drummer Aaron Spears. “It didn’t hit that this was a bomb until we were evacuated and they told us exactly what was going on.”
The terror attack — for which the Islamic State claimed responsibility — left 22 people dead, including an 8‑year‑old child, and 59 injured. It also left Ariana, in her own tweeted statement, “broken. From the bottom of my heart, I am so so sorry. I don’t have words.” According to an insider, the star was distraught. Still in her tear-streaked stage makeup, Ariana flew by private jet to her hometown of Boca Raton, Fla., where she fell into the arms of her boyfriend, Mac Miller. Meanwhile, her management announced that Ariana was “incapable of performing” and had suspended her tour.
When Ariana will resume the tour is unknown. The one certainty is that when she does return to the stage, it will likely be under significantly different conditions — not just for her, but for her fans and fellow performers as well.
Almost every entertainer with a Twitter account expressed their sadness and offered condolences for the victims of the Manchester bombing. From Ariana’s pop contemporaries (including collaborators Nicki Minaj and Zedd) to such music stalwarts as Cher and Bette Midler to the likes of The Rock and Ellen DeGeneres, the resounding message has been, simply, “heartbreaking.” Yet incom prehensible as this heinous act may seem, it’s not the first time deadly havoc has been wreaked upon a music venue. In November 2015, 89 people were killed in a mass shooting at the Bataclan Theatre in Paris during an Eagles of Death Metal show. And 49 people were slaughtered by a lone gunman, who’d sworn allegiance to ISIS, at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in June 2016.
Still, mass murder at a 21,000-seat stadium filled with young fans is bound to have ramifications with regard to security, starting with Manchester Arena itself. The suicide bomber — 22-year-old Salman Abedi, a British native of Libyan descent who grew up in the neighborhood — had slipped through a “security soft spot” as concertgoers headed into Manchester Victoria Station for trains. Security was also reportedly lax for fans entering the stadium. “There was almost no security check,” a member of Ariana’s audience said. “They almost didn’t check our bags, they didn’t take a look. ”
It was surely no coincidence that an American artist’s show was the terror target, and it is almost certain that American performers will make adjustments going forward.
“We’re going to see agents wanting more protection around the artists themselves, and even outside the stadiums and festivals,” says veteran promoter Hal Davidson, author of How Not to Promote Concerts & Music Festivals. “In addition to bag searches and metal detectors and bomb-sniffing dogs, we’re likely to see people’s cars being searched before they get to the venue.”
All of those additional measures will be expensive, costs which will “unfortunately, most likely be passed down into ticket sales,” says Davidson.
For Ariana, of course, there is already a personal cost. The star, who has been criticized for immature behavior in the past, may be growing up fast. “She’s suffering survivor’s remorse,” says the insider. “She says she’ll never get over the guilt of having young kids come see her and never return home.”
One way she may be able to help her own healing process is by meeting with the victims’ families, something the insider says she has “every intention” of doing. Says the source: “That’s the way she feels about her fans, it’s like she’s lost close friends.”