American rockers Eagles of Death Metal took to the stage in Stockholm Saturday, ahead of their return to Paris next week to “finish” the fateful November concert that ended with jihadi gunmen killing 90 of their fans.
About 1,000 fans turned out as they relaunched their European tour in Sweden, with frontman Jesse Hughes alluding to the Paris tragedy, telling the audience: “After all these weeks, we needed you, we really needed you tonight.”
But it will be the return to Paris that will be most emotional for the group and its French fans, many of whom lived through the carnage, including some who are still being treated for their injuries.
“The show isn’t (just) a show in Paris…. It has a purpose and a responsibility which is far beyond just dancing,” singer Hughes told AFP in Stockholm.
One survivor of the Bataclan massacre told AFP he was unsure if he could bear to go, even though he has tickets to see the American band.
“I want to go,” said Guillaume Munier, who escaped the gunmen with a friend by hiding in a tiny upstairs toilet for two hours.
“I’m going to at least go to the Olympia, but I really don’t know if I’ll be able to go inside,” he added. “I don’t know if I’ll have the strength.”
Another survivor, Helene, said she was not at all worried and hoped it would help bring her closure.
“It will allow me to finish the concert,” she said, referring to the fateful gig at the Bataclan on November 13.
Jihadists killed 130 people and wounded hundreds more in a series of coordinated gun and suicide bomb attacks across Paris that night.
Most died at the Bataclan after the Californian band had begun their set.
– ‘We could hear them’ –
Munier, 29, will never forget the moment when the gunmen came in shooting as he and a friend stood on the balcony watching the band play.
“When the shooting started, we looked for a way out,” he said. “We started down the stairs but then we saw that people were falling below so we ran back upstairs.
“I couldn’t see an exit there, so I thought we should go on the roof but I couldn’t find a way to get there either,” he added.
“Then as I was running around, I happened upon the bathrooms — they were too small to be toilets for the public so they must have been for the employees.”
Munier and his friend wedged themselves inside and turned off the lights. In the toilet next to them was a father and his son, he said. They stayed there for the next two hours until they were rescued by a French SWAT team.
“My only fear was that they would open the door,” Munier said. “We could hear them as they walked in front of us, but they never shot directly at the doors.
“We knew they would be looking for survivors to shoot so we told ourselves to stay put,” he said. “We’re lucky we did because when we were rescued, we saw bodies in front of the doors.”
– ‘I won’t risk fainting’ –
Although Munier, a radio producer, has been able to go out to bars and restaurants with friends, he is still worried about being confined in one room with thousands of people.
The attack has left him fearing loud noises, and now, wherever he goes, he looks to make sure he can see an exit.
“I like the symbolism of going but I will not risk fainting just to say I was there,” Munier said.
“It’s not about whether we go or don’t go — it’s not going to lessen the tribute we pay to the victims,” he insisted.
“They’ll be a lot of people who won’t go to the concert because it’ll be too soon,” Munier added. “And there’ll be others who will never be ready.”
The Paris concert will be held at the Olympia concert hall, but Eagles of Death Metal told AFP they would like to be the first to play at the Bataclan when it reopens — planned for the end of 2016.
All of those who were at the November concert have been invited to Tuesday’s gig, which will not generate any profit.