Two members of Eagles of Death Metal, the US rock band who were on stage at the Bataclan during the Paris attacks, played a brief concert nearby Monday to mark the second anniversary of the massacre.
Singer Jesse Hughes and guitarist Dave Catching were surprise guests at an event in the east of the French capital organised by survivors of the attack, in which 90 people died after jihadist gunmen burst into the concert hall and opened fire.
The pair sang two songs before handing white roses to the crowd gathered outside the town hall of the 11th district, a short walk from the concert hall where French President Emmanuel Macron had led a ceremony to remember the victims.
A highly emotional Hughes threw kisses to the crowd before launching into “Save a Prayer”, the last song the band finished before the shooting started.
“It is difficult to not to remember the people who were taken from us like our friend Nick Alexander (the band’s merchandise manager) and so many others,” Hughes later told reporters.
“We watched people give their lives for their friends and we were able to bear witness to that, and now we have a burden of responsibility to make certain that everyone knows that kind of love exists in this world,” he added.
– We can’t ‘let bad guys win’ –
“There’s nothing in the world that would have kept me from here, nothing, not a thing,” Hughes said, visibly moved.
“This is a testament to the resolve of a community that is determined not to let the bad guys win, under any circumstances,” he added.
Hughes said he would never be put off returning to France, and had brought his mother him this time to prove it. “There’s no reason to fear anything. Look at all this, surrounded by love. We got to sing two songs terribly and people still liked us. I don’t think that it gets any better than that.”
However, the flamboyant singer was turned away from the Bataclan when it reopened last year for suggesting that the security guards were in on the attack.
Although he subsequently apologised for his comments, the venue’s co-director Jules Frutos said staff had saved lives during the bloodbath. “There are things you can’t forgive,” he told AFP.
Eagles of Death Metal initially enjoyed wide sympathy in the wake of the attacks.
But Hughes’ provocative remarks led to two leading French festivals cancelling appearances by the band in the summer of 2016.
Hughes, a rare right-wing rocker and supporter of US President Donald Trump, also said without evidence that Muslims had celebrated outside the hall during the siege.