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LOVE AND LIGHT

"It was truly one of the most moving, emotional shows I’ve ever been to," says CAA Head of Music Rob Light of Manchester’s One Love concert. “I was at Live Aid, The Concert for New York City after 9/11, the 12/12/12 concert after Superstorm Sandy. They were all powerful. This was as powerful, if not more so in some ways, than the others. It really highlights the immense power of music. You felt it on TV, but if you were there, the electricity, the energy and the emotion between the artists and this city was palpable. I found myself crying two or three different times.”

Light naturally gives primary credit to Ariana Grande and manager Scooter Braun as the engines of the event. “Scooter was as tenacious and committed as anyone I’ve ever seen,” he says. “He and Ariana deserve spot one.” In addition to the other performers and their managers and crews, Light points to Live Nation’s David Zedeck and Denis Desmond, Festival Republic’s Melvin Benn and SJM’s Simon Moran: “What they did was off the charts—pulling favors out of government officials, making things happen that normally don’t happen in seven days.”

“There was no pettiness or ego,” he recalls. “Everybody was focused on the prize at the end. That was the beauty of this event.”

Among those also earning his props: Allison Kaye at Braun’s SB Projects and CAA’s Marlene Tsuchii and Allison McGregor. Still, Light insists, “It’s the people on the ground working 20-hour days who made this go.”

Saturday, after the attacks in London, when many wondered if the event would proceed, Light says it was the spirit of Manchester that drove things forward. “While that overhang of ‘Are we safe?’ is in the air anytime something like that happens,” he points out, “once you were there you felt really secure. The Live Nation people built this sort of artist compound, a bunch of dressing rooms surrounding a central catering area, and every artist’s door was open. Everybody was in this space together—there was a community feeling. And every artist was watching the others perform. Nobody wanted to leave.”

"Everybody was in this space together—there was a community feeling. And every artist was watching the others perform. Nobody wanted to leave."

That sense of community, he relates, was behind the efficiency of the production. “I really believe that music, when there’s a crisis, when there's a catastrophe, when there’s  a message to be sent, comes together like no other art form,” he says. “People find a way to drop their egos and get to the heart of what needs to be done. When you have that clarity, great things happen very quickly.”

Light, like many attendees and worldwide viewers of the concert, singles out such moments as the “staggeringly powerful” sight of Grande singing with the children’s choir—and receiving a tearful hug from a young girl—as well as security guards dancing with kids on the periphery and Grande’s finale of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

"I really believe that music, when there’s a crisis, when there's a catastrophe, when there’s  a message to be sent, comes together like no other art form."

“Music has the power to heal, to lift, and in those moments you just feel it,” he says. “I was in an artist’s dressing room and relating a story Ari had told me about meeting one the families, and the artist I’m telling the story to says, ‘You’re crying.’ I said, ‘No, I’m not,’ but in fact tears were streaming down my face.”

Now in Nashville for CMA week, Light feels an even deeper sense of mission. He notes that in revisiting the footage and remembering the experience of Manchester, “I remind artists of the power they have: The power to lift people up. Music does that like nothing else, and live music does it at a whole other level.”

 

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