After Paris, Musicians React

The attack on the Bataclan concert hall shattered the sense of safety many of us feel about going out to experience live music. Here’s how a number of artists have responded.

Image via (cc) Flickr user leo.tisseau

A concert is supposed to be a safe space where people can gather with the implicit promise that musicians and music lovers alike will be able to express and enjoy themselves without fear of serious injury or harm.

It’s a promise that was broken last week when gunmen burst into Paris’ Bataclan music hall, murdering 89 people as they stood watching a California rock band in the midst of a European tour. While part of a larger, coordinated terrorist assault on the French capital, that onslaught has become for many a synecdoche for the attacks as a whole—the slaughter of innocents simply enjoying a night out in a city known for its arts and culture.

After the Paris massacre, musicians from around the world have responded to an attack that strikes particularly close to their emotional, if not physical, home. While the responses vary in tone and scope, each speaks—in its own way—to the power music has in times of tragedy.

Eagles of Death Metal, the band onstage when terrorists entered the Bataclan, have reportedly canceled the remainder of their European tour. They have, however, confirmed their commitment to playing a show this summer in Israel. They’re not alone in altering performance plans in the wake of the Paris attacks. Many other musicians have canceled or indefinitely postponed upcoming shows as a sign of respect and mourning.

U2, slated to perform a series of live, HBO-simulcast shows in Paris on November 14 and 15, wrote in a statement posted to their website:

As a result of the ongoing state of emergency across France, the U2 Paris concerts scheduled for the 14th and 15th November will not be going ahead as planned. U2 and Live Nation, along with HBO who were due to live broadcast the Saturday concert, are fully resolved to go ahead with this show at an appropriate time.

Speaking from Paris the band said:

“We watched in disbelief and shock at the unfolding events in Paris and our hearts go out to all the victims and their families across the city tonight.

We are devastated at the loss of life at the Eagles of Death Metal concert and our thoughts and prayers are with the band and their fans.

And we hope and pray that all of our fans in Paris are safe.”

Fellow arena rockers Foo Fighters have canceled the remainder of their European tour, saying:

“It is with profound sadness and heartfelt concern for everyone in Paris that we have been forced to announce the cancelation of the rest of our tour. In light of this senseless violence, the closing of borders, and international mourning, we can't continue right now. There is no other way to say it. This is crazy and it sucks. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone who was hurt or who lost a loved one.”

Coldplay, who were scheduled to take part in a live streaming concert for Tidal and Los Angeles radio station KROQ, chose to cancel the streaming portion of their show, giving a low-key, subdued performance instead. There, the band added an acoustic version of John Lennon’s “Imagine” to their set, dedicating the cover to the victims of the Paris attacks:

Psychedelic indie rockers MGMT posted a message to fans on their Facebook page, highlighting the band’s personal connection to the Bataclan venue as well several music industry professionals who were in attendance at the Eagles of Death Metal show during the attack: one who escaped unharmed, one who was injured in the attack, and one—Nick Alexander—who was killed. They conclude their message in true psychedelic fashion, saying:

We make music and play music to help make people happy. It is what every band we’ve ever met wants to do. Happiness, like music, comes in many different forms and styles. But happiness doesn’t come the way we saw last night. We all need to figure out how to make happiness win. Then the Aliens will come back and smile and bring us many amazing gifts.

We love you France. We love you Paris.

Image via YouTube screen capture

Following the attacks, Madonna chose to proceed with the Stockholm leg of her “Rebel Heart” tour. “I was going to cancel my show tonight, but then I thought to myself, why should I give that to them?” she explained through tears to the crowd. “Why should I allow them to stop me, to stop us, from enjoying freedom? All of the places that people were killed were places that people were having fun—were enjoying themselves, eating in restaurants, dancing, singing, watching a soccer match. These are freedoms that we take for granted, of course, and we must not. But they are freedoms that we deserve!”

She then paused for a moment of silence, before leading the concertgoers in a sing-along of her “Like a Prayer.”

The day after the attacks, New York’s Metropolitan Opera slipped lyrics sheets for “La Marseillaise” into that evening’s performance program, leading the assembled crowd in a rousing rendition of the French national anthem as a show of solidarity:

However, of all the musical and musician responses to the Paris attacks, perhaps the most touching comes not from iconic pop stars, internationally touring rock bands, or classical musical institutions. Instead, it comes from this anonymous piano player who set up a grand piano outside the Bataclan concert hall itself. Once in place, the unknown musician sat down and simply played Lennon’s “Imagine” while onlookers stood nearby, brought together—if only momentarily—by the healing power of music.

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