Meeting the Fans Who Saw Eagles of Death Metal Return to Paris and Finish Their Show
The crowd who saw Jesse Hughes and Josh Homme play in Paris last night describe an emotional night of music, defiance, and love.
This post originally appeared on VICE France.
They had planned to finish the show they started on November 13, 2015, and that's what they did. Just some hours after his controversial statement about gun control, Jesse Hughes took the stage, this time with his buddy Josh Homme—who was lucky enough not to be there when Eagles of Death Metal and the crowd were attacked inside the Bataclan, just three months before.
The Olympia, one of the biggest concert halls in Paris, expected around 2,000 people on Tuesday night, including 900 "survivors" who had been present during that horrific evening in November. Suffice to say, cops were everywhere, streets were closed, and five security checks had been put in place in front of the auditorium. As could be expected, the place was crawling with journalists.
The night was cold, and people looked tense—understandably so, given the situation. For some, it was a unique opportunity to attempt to heal their injuries, particularly those that weren't physical. For others, the gig represented a chance to rise up and shout their contempt of the Islamic State and its wish to destroy the "decadent culture" of the West. But for everyone there, the most important thing was simply to have a drink, listen to some tunes they knew by heart, and enjoy some quality time—even if fear and anxiety were in the air.
I spoke to some audience members at the end of the show in order to try to understand how they felt about the concert and what the atmosphere inside the Olympia on that very particular night had been like.
Related: Watch 'Eagles of Death Metal Discuss Paris Terror Attacks'
Julien, 34, left the show after one hour
"I couldn't take it much longer. It was too difficult. My girlfriend comforted me all day long. She accompanied me in the subway before the gig—but being alone inside was really hard for my nerves. On November 13, I was in the Bataclan with a very close friend, who refused to come tonight.
"When I entered the hall, something struck me: Everyone was behaving like it was a random gig. People were laughing at the bar, having beers. Some girls were taking selfies. But after a moment, some details appeared clearly. Tons of journalists were there. I saw some people crying just before the show started. When the band stopped playing during the first song in order to honor the victims, people around me were really shaken up.
"I can't say I loved that show, because I wasn't even able to listen. My mind was drifting. Now, I just want to go home and have some time with my girlfriend."
"I'm just here because I felt I needed to be here. I bought my ticket because I love rock 'n' roll, I love EODM, and I definitely wanted to see them.
"I wasn't there in November because I took a week off to go in Normandy with my wife—when I discovered that the band was playing in Paris, I was disappointed. With some perspective, I realized how lucky I've been. Can you imagine that? Being alive because of some holiday with your wife? That's impossible to explain, that's even absurd, but you have to deal with it. Life is unfair. Kids died, and I'm still alive."
It was the most stirring concert of my life and one of the saddest moments of my existence.
"I can't find any words to describe what I felt during that gig. I'll never forget it. I went with friends; some were there on November 13, others were not. Personally, I wasn't, but I was having a beer with some friends in the 11th arrondissement. It could have been me that night, you know...
"It was hard not to cry. I tried to resist again and again, but when Jesse Hughes showed us his new blue-white-red guitar, it was too much to take. And they played "Brown Sugar." I love that song. I had to react, and tears were my reaction. It was the most stirring concert of my life and one of the saddest moments of my existence."
"I wasn't present on November 13, but I felt like it was my duty to be there tonight, to sing, to show my support. I know some people could criticize me because I 'stole' a seat from some hardcore fans, but I don't care.
"The beginning of the show was incredible. Seeing the band coming on stage with that specific French song—"Il est cinq heures, Paris s'éveille"—was something hard to describe. It was madness. That tune represents everything I love about Paris—people, places, an atmosphere. Maybe it was strange, because the crowd wanted to have fun, to pretend nothing had happened, even if everybody knew something terrible hit Paris three months ago. You could say it's hypocrisy, catharsis, or "je ne sais quoi." No one gave a damn about that.
"I must admit I looked for the emergency exits before the show began. But it's only human: After that kind of trauma, you can't act normal. As I said, I wasn't there on November 13, but I live in Paris, I'm French, and I've been attacked too—I still can't accept it."
I must admit I looked for the emergency exits before the show began. But it's only human.
"I was there on November 13. I managed to escape when the terrorists entered the Bataclan. I was so lucky that night, you know. I still feel guilty, especially when I see all the faces of people who've been killed.
Tonight, it was a chance for me to forget, to enjoy a beautiful gig with one of my favorite bands. I loved how they performed, I loved the entrance, I loved the fact that Homme was there. Maybe that was the most moving moment, when I discovered that he was going to perform with the Eagles.
"I know that lots of people are talking about Hughes, his pro-gun ideology and so on. But they are a rock band! He destroyed a guitar on stage. He doesn't need to be like French people want him to be. We defend freedom of speech when it serves our intention. If we want to be better than the Islamic State, we have to defend liberty, that's all."
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