I lost a friend in the Paris terror attack at the Bataclan. This week, I went to watch its first gig since then

Waiting for Pete Doherty to appear on stage this week, the atmosphere was tense. Should you be allowed to take a selfie or make a joke in a place where 89 people were savagely killed? I was not the only one asking myself these questions

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The Independent Online

Almost a year ago to the day, the Bataclan was abruptly silenced and the venue, which has played host to legendary performers including Velvet Underground, the Clash and Prince, gained a reputation for something else altogether – as a site of indescribable tragedy.

For me, as for many others affected by the horror of the night of 13 November 2015, it was necessary to see that stage brought back to life. That’s why I decided to attend a gig this week, the first week the venue reopened since the terrorist attacks on Paris last year.

Stepping through the doors, after a meticulous security search, many memories came to back to mind. Stuck at home in London last year, I remembered feeling powerless as I frantically called friends in Paris while watching madness unfold on my TV screen. 

A few hours later I got the call I was dreading. An old schoolmate’s girlfriend was out at the Bataclan that night; mobile networks were saturated and he couldn’t get in touch with her. We discovered a few days later that she had died at the scene. She was 23.

Waiting for Pete Doherty to appear on stage this week, the atmosphere in the theatre was tense. I wondered, should you be allowed to take a selfie, make a joke, or even smile in a place where 89 people were savagely killed just 12 months earlier? 


Doherty opened the night with a defiant rendition of the Marseillaise song (Getty)

I was not the only asking myself these questions. A man next to me reassured his wife by pointing out the closest emergency exits; a couple of teenagers joked about creating panic by throwing a cigarette into the crowd. As the lights went out, we were asked to hold a minute of silence for the victims – probably not the best way to lift spirits.

Doherty started with a defiant rendition of the Marseillaise song first, timidly, then loudly echoed by the whole audience. When Carl Barat joined his former bandmate on stage, the Bataclan was reborn.

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My own reservations disappeared the moment when the rebellious Doherty threw his own guitar across the crowd. As it landed on my neck, I found myself struggling to breathe as four men, who were trying to pull the instrument from right to left, ended up carrying me along with it. This is exactly the kind of story you want to bring back from a rock concert, the kind of innocent tales that those involved in the fatal attack last year were robbed of.

Many victims are still healing their wounds. It will still take me time to fully comprehend the horror of that night, or how France got to that point. But, unlike those we lost that night, the Bataclan will never be silenced again.