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Emotional return for Eagles of Death Metal

Fabien Jannic-Cherbonnel, ParisFebruary 17, 2016

With many survivors of last November's terrorist attacks in attendance, the return of the Eagles of Death Metal to Paris on Tuesday night was emotionally charged but unmistakably rock 'n'roll. DW was at the concert.

Frankreich Konzert Eagles of Death Metal in Paris, Olympia
Image: Getty Images/AFP/J. Saget

"Paris, I f---ing love you!" Tuesday night's concert by the US rock band Eagles of Death Metal at the Olympia concert hall was unmistakably rock 'n'roll. The band made what can only be qualified as a triumphant return to the French capital, just days after restarting its European tour and renaming it "The Nos Amis Tour" ("Our Friends Tour").

On November 13, the American band was playing a gig at the Bataclan concert hall when four terrorists interrupted the show, killing 90 people and wounding hundreds. The attack was part of a series of coordinated terror attacks across the French capital, which left 130 people dead. The band, who lost its manager during the Bataclan siege, promised to return to Paris before long.

During an interview with French TV channel iTele earlier on Tuesday, Eagles frontman Jesse Hughes stirred up controversy by claiming the Bataclan tragedy could have been prevented if everyone had had guns. "Until nobody has guns, everyone has to have them," said Hughes, who is known as an opponent of gun control.

Frankreich Konzert Eagles of Death Metal in Paris, Olympia - Polizei
Security was heavy at the concertImage: Getty Images/AFP/J. Saget

Hughes also swore Tuesday's concert would be "a regular rock show." But his vow proved to be impossible in at least one respect: security concerns meant the area surrounding the Olympia concert hall had to be closed to cars and passersby, with not one but four different security checks put in place by police and Olympia staff.

Even before the start of the show, it was all about emotional recovery. The band decided to invite all of the Bataclan survivors, as well as the families of the deceased, to the concert, leaving only about 500 seats up for grabs.

Hughes told several media outlets he saw coming back to Paris just three months after the attacks as a form of "catharsis." Many of the survivors of the massacre also saw it as a way to "end the nightmare."

The emotional weight of the concert, however, didn't stop the nearly soldout crowd. Right before the start of the gig, many were still ordering drinks at the bar, exchanging hugs and laughs.

David, one of the Bataclan survivors, told DW that he had refused to stop going to shows after the events of November 13. "I have to go on. I'm here with two other guys who were at the Bataclan with me," he said.

As the lights dimmed, Jesse Hughes made his entrance draped in a red cape to the sound of Jacques Dutronc's "Il est cinq heures, Paris s'éveille" ("It's Five A.M., Paris Wakes Up"). Visibly moved, the band leader took a moment to look at the audience before welcoming them in his unmistakable US accent.

As the music started blasting, it began to feel like a regular Eagles show, albeit more emotionally charged. The band played their greatest hits, starting with "I Only Want You." "Let's take a moment to remember before going back to the fun," said Hughes at one point, asking the audience for a few seconds of silence.

One song was missing for the usual set list: "Kiss the Devil," the song that was being performed when the terrorists stormed the Bataclan in November. It was a choice that was probably for the best, given the emotional suffering of many of the survivors in attendance.

"I'm here for the music, but also to accompany a friend who was at the Bataclan. She couldn't face coming here alone," Vincent, another concertgoer, told DW. A team of 25 psychiatrists were on hand during the concert, with firemen and security also clearly visible.

Blasting through the set list with high energy, Hughes was only about love last night. He talked in between songs, thanking the audience, pledging his love for Paris and promising hugs for someone who made him a T-shirt.

Band members seemed delighted to be there, applauding the audience after each song. At one point, when audience members began to hum along and shout to the music, Hughes warned that he "might steal the noise to create a new song." Later, sporting a red, white and blue guitar, he took requests from the audience.

After several minutes of sustained cheers and applause, the band members left the Olympia stage, having managed to finish what they started on November 13.

"You know what, it was great, the concert was actually better than at the Bataclan!" David said after the show.

"Peace, love and rock and roll" were the last words of White Miles, Tuesday's opening band. And for just two hours, it really felt like it. But then it was back to reality. Outside, concertgoers began checking their smartphones, only to read that the French parliament had voted to extend France's state of emergency until the end of May.