I was on a business trip to Paris in February 2016, a site inspection for a client I was arranging an incentive trip for. I really enjoy Paris, and my Paris tips will come some time soon, but for now I would like to talk about that time I by accident had one of the most powerful music and emotional experiences ever. While in Paris I knew that there would be a concert by Eagles Of Death Metal, their first show in Paris after the Bataclan terrorist attack in 2015. I talked with my agent in Paris about this over lunch and the repercussions of the terrorist attacks on the tourist industry. When he mentioned that he could get me 1 ticket for the show I was shocked! I immediately said, “yes, please!” with a bit of trepidation, what would this concert be like? I knew it would be something special, I also knew that security would probably be tight, and that this concert could be something very special indeed.
On November 13th, 2015, a series of terrorist attacks shook Paris and France to the core. Several coordinated Islamist attacks were carried out on public spaces in Paris. In the Bataclan concert venue 1500 Parisians were gathered to see Eagles Of Death Metal from USA play live. While the band was o stage playing, three men entered the venue and opened fire with automatic weapons. It is hard for me as a concert goer to imagine the horror of those present at the show. Concerts are a happy joyous occasion and being attacked by cowardly men with guns are not something you think about while enjoying live music. After hours of horrific scenes, 90 people lay killed in Bataclan, an additional 50 were killed at other point of attack around Paris, and 416 people were injured, many severely. It was a dark day for Paris, and it was a dark day for the world.
That the Eagles Of Death Metal would ever be on a stage again after what happened at the Bataclan concert venue was not a matter of course. The band escaped the massacre but lost one of their beloved crew to the terrorists. Getting friends, fans and concertgoers massacred before your eyes does a lot with one person and a whole community of concert goers. Fortunately for the Eagles Of Death Metal, they managed to come back, to overcome the fear, to be allowed to show that the greatest thing of all is love between people, no matter where you come from, skin colour or faith. Nothing is bigger. Vocalist Jesse Hughes has lately been crying through interview after interview, as a kind of penance for what happened. He hopes he does not disappoint anyone when he returns to the stage in Paris, just three months after the Bataclan massacre. Outside L’Olympia, there are around 10 TV stations that broadcast live with serious reporters, there is national news on French TV, the security presence is formidable, it was probably the safest place on earth that night. On the way in, everyone goes through four checkpoints, right inside there is a girl with a sign that says “Free Hugs” and of course she gets a big hug from me.
Inside the arena, where Edith Piaf and The Beatles among others, has played, there are many surprisingly older couples and single people, it feels a bit like they are in the wrong place. Until I realize that these are the parents of those who died, and when I look around a bit there are young people in wheelchairs, some come on crutches, others may not have visible scars, but you see that something has happened to them, they look wary and keeps scanning for exits and places to hide. All those who were at Bataclan and the families of those who were killed, are especially invited to tonight’s concert, and this makes everything even more special.
When Eagles Of Death Metal kicks off the concert, it’s as if a major purge is set in motion. The audience is almost manic, and after ten minutes of applause and two songs, Jesse Hughes asks for a minute of silence. It becomes quiet, not a word, not a sound, just amplifiers buzzing. When the concert starts again, the audience is on the floor like a big mass of energy, and the band gives everything they have, they want to show that they stand with their backs straight, and they do not let themselves be broken. “You have no idea how much I needed you today, and you did not disappoint me, I love you so much!” A weeping Hughes thanks Paris with a guitar painted in the colours of the French flag. Everything is fine, we are back to what this is about, music, not politics or religion. “Come on, dance with me!” Paris goes bananas, old men crowd surf with sigarettes in the corner of their mouths. Boys, girls, women crowd surf on a sea of energy and positivity. Never the fuck if dark men are going to crack us! We will not be silenced by terrorists! When the concert is finally over, Jesse Hughes stands with his arms around his friend and drummer Josh Homme for a long time. The band thanks the audience for support and love, the audience does not really want to go, the moment is too precious. The cleansing of the tribe is complete, fear has been replaced with hope that music will continue to be a positive force in the lives of those who survived Bataclan.
Five minutes after the band has left the stage, the venue is still full, someone starts to sing the French national anthem, some cry, others cheer. I cry a little myself. I never think I will go through the same feelings at a concert again, which I do not want either. Fortunately, the Eagles of Death Metal will continue to provide us with party music for years to come, to celebrate life and love.
Please visit the victims support group if you want to support or learn more here.
Peace and love to everyone.