Updated: Aug 26
Just over a year ago, we watched as religious fanatics attacked some of our most beloved institutions: rock & roll, sport & food. In Paris, the very soul of western culture was being terrorized, brutalized and slaughtered in the name of a raging mythological creature and the promise of his blissful playground in the sky. The joy we draw from the life we know, snuffed out in favour of a joy promised in a life we’ve no evidence for. 130 innocent people died that night, 89 of them at an Eagles of Death Metal show at the Bataclan.
The band, themselves, survived, though not easily. Leader of the band, Jesse Hughes, narrowly escaped being shot on several occasions, feeling the momentum of bullets in his hair as they whizzed past him.
But, despite their clear and inescapable PTSD, the band came back to do a show 3 months later. This documentary from HBO, Eagles Of Death Metal: Nos Amis, is about this return to Paris, and what it meant to the band and its fans.
During the documentary, U2 members Bono and the Edge were interviewed. On the night of the attacks in Paris, U2 had been ushered back to their hotel and forced to cancel their own show in Paris out of concern for everyone’s safety. Three weeks after the attack, U2 invited the Eagles of Death Metal onto their stage in Paris to perform. This was the EODM’s first performance after the attack.
While obviously not the point of this documentary, or even the intended takeaway, all I could see was an exposé on cognitive dissonance. Here, we are watching two very devoutly Christian bands praise god and thank god and be grateful that god spared them, because someone who took a god too seriously decided to kill for the same god that “spared” the Eagles of Death Metal. Nevermind that their god thought it an acceptable loss that 89 innocent music lovers died that night. No, be thankful that god spared your life.
Bono, the Edge, Jesse Hughes, all invoke god on a regular basis and they don’t seem to be able to make the connection that it was those very same feelings that sent the men into the Bataclan in November 2015 to shoot up a bunch of happy kids.
Religion caused this massacre and religion is what they’ve turned to in the wake of it. It’s an utter perversion. Like the grieving family members of a heroin overdose victim all turning to heroin to cope with their loss.
The documentary seems to have been focused on the positive, as there were many negative things that happened between the attacks and the show in February that were left out. I get it… the survivors need a positive story, and that’s what Colin Hanks delivered. Ultimately, the return to Paris by the Eagles of Death Metal was a beautifully positive thing. Instead of succumbing to the fear, they defied it in the most epic way: they didn’t say a single, solitary word about the attacks in their first show back in Paris, instead opting for a moment of silence and then declaring they were just there to have fun.
This brilliant moment aside, this documentary is pretty frustrating for those of us who see that religion is what led to this. If only the lesson learned was that the joy and bliss sought in this life is infinitely greater than the joy and bliss promised in a life that follows this one; a life we aren’t sure is real. If only the lesson learned was that flesh & blood is real and should be guarded as sacred in the here and now and no godly wishful thinking ought ever to be prioritized before that.
There is no god sitting up there in the clouds choosing to save Jess Hughes while 89 others meet their fate in pools of their friend’s blood on the Bataclan floor. The very idea of this is heinous, and Jesse, Bono, The Edge, can’t seem to make that connection. To believe in your god, is to accept this, and it kind of makes you gross.
Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis is worth watching if only to conclude that Christopher Hitchens was right. When religion finally succeeded in bringing its poison to rock and roll, we could be certain religion poisons everything.