On Friday, November 13th, the city of Paris, France experienced the worst night of carnage since World War II. Through a series of coordinated terrorist attacks committed by radicalized Islamists acting on behalf the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), 130 people lost their lives. These attacks included three separate bombings near the Stade de France, several shootings, and a mass shooting at the Bataclan, a famous concert hall. The Bataclan was the site of the largest number of lives lost during the November 13th attacks. It was there that the Eagles of Death Metal were performing.
U2 were scheduled to perform at a nearby venue on the night of the shootings and were preparing to shoot a concert film the next day, U2: iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE: Live in Paris, to be aired live on HBO a few hours later. The concert and the taping were subsequently cancelled and would be rescheduled at a later date. Though I was eagerly awaiting the premiere of the concert, I understood the decision made by French authorities to cancel the concert.
In the days and weeks following the attacks, information was released about the attackers and bombing raids were carried out in Syria. The cowards who committed these atrocities were identified and dealt with accordingly. During that time, the world stood in solidarity with Paris. The French people bravely carried on and refused to be afraid. The world must move on and cannot be stopped as long as the resolve of its people remains strong.
U2’s concerts were rescheduled for December 6th and December 7th with the taping taking place during the latter performance and airing on HBO later that night. December 7th was my birthday. Being able to see that film on my birthday was welcomed, though a bittersweet gift. Bono, being a political and idealistic hurricane, stated that all previous preparations were cast aside in order to make the December 7th taping a symbolic gesture to express solidarity with Paris and the victims of the attack. Such a powerful gesture from an elder statesman of rock. Bono’s passion was coming through and, I knew, would result in a memorable performance.
I attended two performances in Chicago from the iNNOCENCE + experience tour during the summer. For the most part, the production design and musician blocking remained the same. A spirited performance of “Bullet the Blue Sky” and “Pride (In the Name of Love)” provided the backdrop to a touching tribute to the victims of the attack including their names appearing on the large screen in the center of the arena. A solemn and appropriate tribute, but that was the just the beginning.
Towards the end of the concert, Bono introduced the Eagles of Death Metal to the stage. “They were robbed of their stage three weeks ago,” Bono said. “We would like to offer them ours tonight.” Then, every member of each band powered through a spirited performance of Patti Smith’s classic “People Have the Power.” However, that was not the end. U2 quietly left the stage and it was only the Eagles of Death Metal that remained. Jesse Hughes, the band’s lead singer, enthusiastically addressed the audience and was on the verge of tears.
Closing out the film, the Eagles of Death Metal performed “I Love You All the Time,” a track from their latest release Zipper Down. It was the first time they had performed since the shooting during their show at the Bataclan. The band was one I had heard of, but I was unaware of their music. The name floated around and would come up at various points, but they never fully landed on my radar until the Paris attacks. Even then, I didn’t seek out their music. I’m not sure why when I look back on it. So, their performance during this concert was my first proper introduction to the band. Watching them perform, I loved their spirit and tenacity. The energy was palpable, and I wasn’t even at the concert. The band was fully embracing the moment as if they were never going to let go. That was the most touching part of the night.
The attacks in Paris were more than just an attack on the French people. It was an attack on expression. It was an attack on brotherhood. It was an attack on the world. To stand strong and carry on in the darkest of moments exclaiming “I love you all the time” represents everything that is good in humanity. That when evil rears its ugly head, the light shining from our collective love destroys all shadows.
While the track is a bit dark and the classic story of unrequited love, it took on a different meaning on December 7th. To everyone who stands for people and not for chaos, I say to you “I love you all the time.”