Paris Attacks: HBO Staffer on the Hours Before U2 Concert Was Set to Start

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Bono and U2 place flowers on the pavement near the scene of yesterday's Bataclan Theatre terrorist attack on Nov. 14, 2015 in Paris, France. At least 120 people have been killed and over 200 injured, 80 of which seriously, following a series of terrorist attacks in the French capital. 

"Realizing that where the bomb went off was where HBO did the Beyonce-Jay Z concert last year, that was really scary," director of talent relations Mark Maynard tells Billboard.

Imagine getting into a cab in Paris on Friday evening, being told by your driver without any sense of urgency that there was a shooting outside of town, and by the time you arrived at your hotel minutes later, learning that the city was under a siege of terror with multiple targets being bombed simultaneously and in real-time.  

That was the experience of HBO director of talent relations Mark Maynard, who arrived in town for a live simulcast of U2's Paris tour stop, which was scheduled for Saturday night. In fact, he was knee-deep in distributing tickets to the scores of guests, executives and VIPs set to attend the concert at the AccorHotels Arena when terrorists (since identified as ISIS militants) attacked music venue the Bataclan along with a Cambodian restaurant and the Stade de France soccer stadium. Rehearsals and camera blocking for the U2 show had ended only a few hours before. The concert was officially canceled at 9:30 p.m. EST, less than 24 hours before it was set to start.

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"You didn't know what was going on -- were they going to strike hotels? -- and things progressively got crazier and crazier," Maynard tells Billboard. "Realizing that where the bomb went off [at nearby soccer stadium Stade de France] was where HBO did the Beyonce-Jay Z concert last year, that was really scary."

Sequestered in his hotel, "we were instructed by security to stay in our rooms and not go outside," adds Maynard. "So you're watching CNN and start thinking about Mumbai ... it was surreal."

Maynard's accommodations were just off the Champs Elysees, normally a top tourist destination, but the next day virtually empty and "an eerie quiet," he says. 

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Leaving the French capital, he notes the stark contrast to when he arrived and the country was marking the anniversary of the end of World War I with parades, flags and lights. "Two days later, everything was dark."

While not at liberty to discuss plans for the HBO-U2 special, Maynard, a music lover who regularly sees concerts big and small, adds that Bono's comments at a memorial the next day -- that the attacks were "a direct hit on music" -- resonated on a personal level.