Eagles of Death Metal, the American rock band who survived a jihadist attack on their concert in Paris last month, made an emotional return to the stage in the French capital night alongside U2.
“They were robbed of their stage three weeks ago and we would like to offer them ours tonight,” U2 frontman Bono said, embracing the band’s white-suited lead singer Jesse Hughes before they both broke into a rousing rendition of Patti Smith’s “People Have The Power”.
In a highly-charged concert at the AccorHotels Arena, filled with references to the 130 victims of the November 13 Paris attacks, Bono said: “We must also think of the terrorists’ families… I know it is hard right now.”
The singer said they had also been robbed of their loved ones, by “an ideology that is a perversion of the beautiful religion of Islam”.
Bono’s comments came after the searing high-point of the show when a giant screen lit up in the red, white and blue colours of the French flag showed the names of the Paris victims, as Bono sang Jacques Brel’s haunting “Ne me quitte pas” (Don’t Leave Me).
The packed 16,000-seat venue also fell momentarily silent after a version of the band’s anthem “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, which turns on the line, “Can’t believe the news today”.
– ‘Not have our hatred’ –
“Do you want to be afraid, to look at your fellow citizens with suspicion, turn away our neighbours,” Bono said in a plea for tolerance later in the show.
“You will not have our hatred,” he went on, taking up a line in a letter Antoine Leiris, who lost his wife at the Bataclan concert hall, wrote to her killers.
Ninety people died at the venue in eastern Paris in the worst of the attacks as the Eagles of Death Metal were just starting their set.
Fans had been left guessing over whether the California rockers would perform alongside U2, with expectation mounting after the Irish band hinted last week about “special guests” joining them at their two rescheduled Paris gigs.
“We love you all, we will never give up rocking and rolling,” Hughes, the Eagles’ lead singer, said to a huge cheer from the audience when they appeared at the show’s finale.
U2 had been due to play the arena on November 14 and 15, but the gigs were cancelled after the shootings and suicide bombings.
“We chose love over fear. We refuse to be a monster to defeat a monster,” Bono said in reference to the Islamic State group, which claimed responsibility for the killings.
Fans leaving the show were euphoric about the hope the show had given them “in this time of trauma”, with several defending Bono’s comments on the attackers’ families.
“It was a brave and hard thing to say, but he was right,” said Andreas Hanselmann from Zurich. His sister Caroline agreed. Now more than ever, she said, “we need to show what humanity is”.
– ‘Not afraid’ –
But Parisian Sandrine Vesset, 42, said some would be shocked. “It might be too early for a lot of people, but he is right of course. We are suffering now and they gave us a lot of hope and power, especially the way Bono talked about losing his own mother when he was 14.”
She reserved her strongest praise for U2’s activism, and the way “they were not afraid to bring up the war in Syria, and the refugees coming to Europe”.
In one of many hard-hitting images, the stars of the European flag were represented by drowned migrants floating in the blue of the Mediterranean.
The lyrics of their song “In the Name of Love” were also altered to “One boy washed up on an empty beach”, in a reference to Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi, who drowned trying to reach Greece.
Ahead of the show, fan Adolfo Younes said he had never been to a concert that carried such emotional charge.
“I went to the Bataclan today and it was one of the saddest sights I have ever seen,” said the 44-year-old, who travelled from Dusseldorf for the gig.
“People were crying and it brought back my own memories of people I knew who died in the civil war in Croatia where my mother comes from.”