Eagles of Death Metal
16 February 2016
Tony Scott and his partner Justine were two of the survivors from the original Eagles Of Death Metal gig in Paris. They wrote a brilliant and emotional piece about their awful experience for Louder Than War and vowed to return to Paris when the band came back.
This is the review of the famous return gig and also thoughts about the whole scenario and the conflicting emotions of returning to Paris and the surrounding controversy over the band’s views on gun culture etc. It’s the best written and most level headed report on the whole gig and surrounding story we’ve seen. (Their original piece about the surviving the first gig is a powerful and emotional read – read it here)
There’s much trepidation and anxiety between us as my fianceé, Justine, and I return to Paris to see the Eagles of Death Metal finish the gig where just three months ago we found ourselves fleeing the gunmen that stormed Le Bataclan and massacred 89 people, injuring many more.
As the weeks and days have got nearer I’ve been getting butterflies in my stomach whenever I think of it. The sure footed defiance I felt at returning has crumbled and left me questioning whether we are risking too much by returning.
The thoughts bouncing around my head are conflicting. Would it, could it happen again? Are we safe? Are we fool hardy? At the same time it still feels like we should go, stand defiant. We survived, many didn’t. I feel like a bit of a fraud and guilty that we escaped physically and somewhat mentally unscathed.
As well as those that fell, I’ve read of people left suffering hideous injuries not to mention the families and loved ones that are still grieving and dealing with this. To go is more out of a mark of respect and support than our own self-healing and for that we must put the fear aside.
Neither can we let the terrorists take from us an important part of our lives, going to gigs and enjoying the atmosphere of live music. I imagine others attending and the members of the band and crew are experiencing a similar set of emotions.
Returning to Paris
We left the UK late on Monday, our heads taking stock of our emotions, and arrived late in the evening at our apartment. Leaving ourselves a get out clause, we’d agreed between us that we didn’t have to go to the gig if we changed our minds.
It was a crisp, bright, cold Paris morning as we left our apartment the following day. The gig was going to be at L’Olympia, a much larger venue. Le Bataclan remains closed for now but we wanted to revisit it and lay some flowers out of respect.
We walked along Boulevard Voltaire and as we got closer we could see the inimitable and lavish building that is Le Bataclan flanked by the tall six storey buildings that line the streets of Paris. I felt a shiver and my heart raced as we took in the sight of it.
Looking up we could see the small circular window at the top of the building behind which we hid. We saw the balcony down which we’d been escorted by ladder and where bodies had laid in front of the glass panelled doors. We could see the bullet holes left in the glass. Messages for loved ones were written on the pavement in chalk and flowers tied to the metal barricades.
The memories of that night remained crystal clear, it was a sombre and sobering moment. The railings across the road enclosing the square had become a makeshift garden of remembrance. Photos, poetry, candles, flags, drawings by children and trinkets stretched along them. We laid our flowers and paid our respects, thankful for our own lives.
We retraced our steps along the pavement from the front of Le Bataclan along the route where armed police had escorted us to the safety of a courtyard. We found the wine bar, we now know as 25-50, that was taking people in out of the cold and handing out hot drinks. We met the woman who was working there that night and were finally able to say thank you to one of those whose kindness and humility we witnessed that evening. We chatted awhile over hot soup and she embraced us both with a hug.
We also visited the monument at Place de la République. As well as tributes from the November 13th attacks there were tributes from the earlier terrorist attacks in January that included those against the newspaper, Charlie Hebdo. It is still very much in the mind of the Parisians and like the makeshift memorial at Le Bataclan, it is adorned with tributes and symbols to those who lost their lives.
We walked back to our apartment quietly holding hands, our thoughts with those who did not survive.
Back at the apartment Justine rested and I clicked through articles on the internet surrounding the evening’s gig. I came across the EoDM’s frontman, Jesse Hughes, recent interview where he’s asked about gun ownership and whether it would have changed anything that night at Le Bataclan.
Hughes, clearly still shaken by the events, advocated his views that everyone should own a gun and that if they had, then the bloodbath of 13 November 2015 would not have occurred.
I think his views on this are misguided and I think that civilians with guns that night would have made things a whole lot worse. The armed police that entered the building were highly trained (not to mention protected). Anyone else with a gun would not have known who they were shooting at until the lights came on, add into the mix the fact that people had been drinking, and would be disorientated and scared. They were facing automatic weapons firing repeated rounds held by terrorists wearing suicide vests fully intending to take their own lives and you get the picture.
I think America’s statistics on gun-related deaths and injuries when compared to the UK or France bears that out. If we have to have guns at all, leave them in the hands of the protective forces trained and skilled to use them in such situations not in the hands of the general public on a night out.
We took the nearby Metro to L’Olympia. We didn’t speak much on the journey, conscious of people getting on and off the train and counting down the stops. We held hands and checked each other were ok. We’ve been to gigs since the attack and slowly eased our way back into the gig scene. This was just another gig, except it wasn’t. We were a little unsure of how we’d feel.
As we left the Metro stop and walked along Boulevard des Capucines it clearly was different. There were lines of TV broadcast vans and a highly visible presence of police and armed guards. Security was tight on entry. I counted three separate stops. We opened our coats and bags for initial inspection by armed guards. Further along the line we were searched with metal detectors and on entry to the building patted down and tickets scanned.
Once through, a girl holding a sign that read ‘Free Hugs’ greeted us. Inside there were highly visible security staff and psychotherapists for anyone that needed help dealing with the event. There were many people wearing ‘Life of Paris’ badges, a support group for victims that was borne out of Facebook.
Entering the concert hall, we found ourselves stood at the back and caught some of the support band White Miles who, I later found out, were among those injured at Le Bataclan. The two-piece outfit put on a good show in what must have been difficult circumstances for them also.
The show that marked the Eagles of Death Metal returning to finish their gig started by way of the intro with Paris s’éveille (Paris Awakens) by Jacques Dutronc playing as the band walked on stage to much shouting and applause.
The band included Jesse Hughes long time friend, EoDM collaborator and Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme aka ‘Baby Duck’ on drums. A rare outing for Homme with the band, he was not there at Le Bataclan and seldom tours with the band, but he was right there backing Hughes up all the way.
As the intro reaches its end Jesse Hughes aka ‘Boots Electric’, adjusts his shades, pinches out his moustache and slicks back his hair. Homme counts in on the sticks and the launch into ‘I Only Want You’ with all their vigour.
This is a rock gig, 100%. The floor is literally shaking as the audience jump up and down. The band pause the song briefly and Hughes asked everyone for 89 seconds of silence before they get back to the fun. The audience goes quiet, save a few people intent on shouting disrespectfully over the silence, and we have a moment to remember the dead before the band resume.
Any fear the band were feeling they were keeping locked away determined to make this a show a full-on celebration of Paris, its love, its stoicism and its people. There is rapturous applause and they’re straight into ‘Don’t Speak’ and ’So Easy’ before Hughes addresses the crowd, his voice overcome with emotion, as he declares, ‘I love you mother-fuckers so much you have no fucking idea! So glad to see y’all here tonight.’
Next up is ‘Complexity’ from their last album. This is a night for both sides, the band are giving it their all, flicks and kicks, and the audience are loving every minute of it. This is how it should be. We’re getting into it but still a little on edge and habitually checking the exits but as the night wears on we begin to relax a little.
Hughes holds up the audience at times like a preacher in charge of a rock ’n’ roll sermon asking the audience for an amen. After ’Silverlake’ they bring on Julian Dorio, their touring drummer to play along side Josh Homme on the second kit for ‘Oh Girl’. Another emotional outpouring from Jesse Hughes, ‘Nos Amis, I love you all the time!’ before they play ‘I Love You All The Time’, reportedly due to be the next song on their set when the gig was halted at Le Bataclan.
Hughes was wearing a scarf in the colours of the French Tricolour that had been thrown on stage. At the end of the song he asked who’d made that scarf and offered to give them ‘A big ol’ cup of hot cocoa and a big ol’ hug’. During ‘Just 19’ Hughes smashes his guitar throwing the wreckage to the audience. After the song one of the crew enters the stage to brush away the debris. Homme quips, ‘You missed a bit.’ This only echoes that despite the circumstances the band are determined to bring a show to the people and in amongst the tears and emotions they succeed. ’Secret Plans’ is dedicated to their friend and Merch Manager, Nick Alexander. They finish the main set with ‘I Wannabe In LA’ before heading off stage.
The audience want more and there’s no letting up. After a quite a wait Hughes returns to the stage, full of emotion, on his own with a guitar painted in the French Tricolour for a short solo set including a cover of The Stones ‘Brown Sugar’ before being joined by the rest of the band for their cover of Duran Duran’s ’Save A Prayer’ and ‘Boys Bad News’.
Their parting number is ‘Speaking In Tongues’ during which Hughes heads up to the balcony to hug some of the fans from Le Bataclan leaving guitarist Dave Catching to improvise protracted solos until his return. After they finish the band take centre stage to more rapturous applause.
It’s been an emotional night for the band and audience alike. There’s a sense of relief and closure to all. We had to go back and finish what we started, a sentiment that I’m sure chimes with many people in attendance that night.
All words by Tony Scott.