Eagles of Death Metal play concert for survivors of Paris attacks
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American rock band Eagles of Death Metal returned to Paris on Tuesday to play an emotionally charged concert in front of hundreds of survivors of the November 13 terror attacks, which claimed the lives of 130 people.
The show took place under tight security at the Olympia concert hall in the centre of the French capital. The band’s frontman, Jesse Hughes, had promised that it will be “a regular rock show”, despite a warning from a psychologist who has been treating survivors that the gig could trigger panic.
"Rock and roll for me has always been fun and I am not going to let anyone take that away from me or my friends," he said, referring to the band's fans.
In a series of interviews ahead of Tuesday’s concert, Hughes recalled the moment gunmen stormed the Bataclan music hall in eastern Paris while his band was onstage, killing 89 people.
“I really think it’s important that everyone knows what happened to our friends in there... I know this sounds terrible, but I didn’t see a single coward,” he told Swedish talk show Nyhetsmorgon.
Following the attack, Eagles of Death Metal cancelled the remainder of its European tour to return home. Hughes said he hoped that completing the show they began at the Bataclan three months ago will be the first step towards emotional recovery.
“This is therapy for me... I want to see all those smiles that greeted me in Paris that night. I really need to see those faces smiling again,” he told AFP.
A number of survivors also see Tuesday’s concert as a form of catharsis. Hélène, who was in the front row when the gunmen opened fire at the Bataclan, said she hoped seeing the band again would bring her some closure.
“It will allow me to finish [the show],” the 42-year-old said.
Fear of panic, trauma
Others, however, said they were still unsure if they will go to the concert.
"I'm going to go to the Olympia, but I really don't know if I'll be able to go inside. I don't know if I'll have the strength,” said Guillaume Munier, 29, who survived the siege at the Bataclan by hiding in a toilet for two hours.
Eagles of Death Metal officially kicked off their Nos Amis Tour (Our Friends Tour), a trek of rescheduled dates across Europe, this weekend in Stockholm, Sweden. With the concert in Paris up next, Hughes said that he was “scared” by the weight of expectation on his shoulders.
"I understand what the people who cannot come are feeling. I know in my heart the right thing to do... the thing that is going to achieve the exponential amount of healing is the thing that is hardest," he said.
But psychologist Carole Damiani, who leads a support group for the Bataclan victims, warned some people could panic if the situation is not handled correctly.
She insisted that although some fans may be physically well enough to go to the concert, the mental scars are still painfully raw.
"When one person is panicking it is one thing, but a collective panic is something else," Damiani said.
She warned that attending a show with the same music at a similar venue could plunge survivors into a parallel sensory atmosphere that could trigger trauma. "For some that could be painful," she said, adding that a team of 30 volunteer counsellors and psychologists will be on hand at the Olympia just in case.
"No one should kid themselves that this concert is going to cure them and put everything right,” Damiani said.
"Some victims are under the illusion that they will find the same person next to them that they had [on November 13]. That is pretty much impossible."
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)