Ariana Grande in 2014. Photo by Flickr user lindsaydaniella
A concert by Ariana Grande is one of the best places you can take your little girl (or boy, if he’s into it). If your little girl is a teenager who attends with her friends, you can be assured that she will have a great time in a wholesome environment.
Your teen will love the bright costumes, the powerful singing and the laser show. Younger fans will probably be most excited about the flood of pink balloons that drops from the ceiling at the end of the performance. And you, mom or dad, you get to watch your child’s eyes sparkle, see her dance and sing along (you won’t hear any singing amid the din), and finally collect a “thank you SO MUCH for taking me!” at the end of the show. You’ll take that heartfelt gratitude and store it in the vault where you keep all the treasures of parenting, the ones that more than compensate you for every case of 3 a.m. stomach flu that childrearing brings.
That’s how it works at an Ariana Grande show. That’s how it was on Monday night in Manchester, England, when Grande left the stage and about 18,000 fans headed toward the exits of the Manchester Arena, a venue about the size of New York’s Madison Square Garden.
And then it wasn’t like that at all.
An apparent suicide bomber detonated an explosive device filled with nails and similar shrapnel near one of the exits. British authorities reported 22 dead, including an 8-year-old girl, and 59 injured. Some of the injuries resulted from the panicked scramble for the exits that followed the explosion.
In the darkest corners of some of the most twisted minds on our planet, there is a reason to attack little girls and pink balloons with explosive-driven shards of hot metal.
The self-declared Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack, although whether it did anything more than exhort similarly twisted minds to mayhem is not yet known. British authorities took at least one person into custody as they investigated whether the attacker acted in concert with other deviants.
The attack came on the eve of a meeting between President Trump, on his Middle East tour, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The timing was seemingly coincidental but provident, as Trump made every effort on his tour to delegitimize terror, which the Palestinian Authority has justified and subsidized as an appropriate means of resistance and tool toward its political ends. He pointedly noted, “We must be resolute in condemning such acts in a single unified voice,” according to ABC.
“I won’t call them monsters because they would like that term,” USA Today quoted Trump as saying of the parties responsible for the Manchester mayhem. “I will call them from now on losers, because that’s what they are.”
Earlier, in Saudi Arabia, Trump made common cause with a Riyadh regime that once saw benefit in supporting religious extremists in Afghanistan and in funding religious seminaries that turned out a steady stream of recruits, but which has since seemed to turn over a new leaf. Saudi Arabia’s King Salman endorsed the need “to stand united to fight the forces of evil and extremism,” NBC reported.
Back in Britain, Grande herself was physically unharmed but, no doubt, emotionally devastated. I work with other entertainers and know firsthand how closely they bond with their fans, especially the youngest ones. Although I don’t know Grande personally, I am certain she was sincere when she tweeted after the attack that she was “broken.” Although she had absolutely nothing for which to apologize, she added that she was “so so sorry.”
When I wrote this, it was unclear whether Grande would cancel her shows, scheduled Thursday and Friday evening at London’s O2 Arena. I certainly would not blame her if she feels unable to take the stage so soon after another one of her shows ended so tragically. It may not even be logistically possible to put on a show with the necessarily tightened security – not that security was not going to be tight anyway – or if Grande’s fellow performers were not able to go on with her, or if equipment could not be moved from Manchester amid the ongoing investigation.
But if she can do it, I hope Ariana Grande performs her shows in London this week. There are thousands of little girls in the English capital who could really use a memorable night with a performer they love to watch and hear. Capped off, naturally, with a pink balloon.