Coronavirus

A Closer Look at the Bataclan's Renewal -- Will the Cure Be One of Its First Headliners?

bataclan-paris-exterior-march-2016-billboard-650
Thierry Chesnot/Getty Images

Police officers patrol outside the Bataclan concert hall where security forces are retracing the actions of the police during November's terrorist attacks for a parliamentary committee investigation and on March 17, 2016 in Paris, France. 

Six months after the Bataclan was attacked by terrorists, the Paris club is rebuilding and refocusing and looking for a new foundation -- maybe with the help of The Cure. But with extremism still rampant in Europe, will American acts come back?

The live music industry in France is still coming to terms with a new world order six months after the terrorist attack at Paris venue the Bataclan, where, on Nov. 13, 2015, Eagles of Death Metal were ­performing when gunmen stormed the venue, ­killing 89. But the club is ­preparing to open its doors -- perhaps, ­according to insiders, in October with The Cure ­headlining. (A rep for the band, whose first gig in France was at the Bataclan in December 1979, didn't respond to Billboard's request for comment.)

It has been a long road in a relatively short period of time for the 1,500-capacity room, whose rebuilding started in earnest in March, with the blood-soaked wood floor gutted and the seats replaced (construction to repair the antique ceiling had been planned for this spring prior to the attacks). The stage was hit especially hard, since one of the attackers -- ­identified as Samy Amimour -- blew himself up on it. (EODM member Jesse Hughes alleged that the attack may have been an inside job, ­comments venue reps called "grave and defamatory." Hughes later retracted his charge.)

The Bataclan Details Reopening Plans, Announces First Concerts After Paris Attacks

In an unusual move, reps for the club's owners, Lagardère Unlimited Live Entertainment, a division of Lagardère SCA, recently invited victims and families affected by the attack to tour the ­reconstruction in a continuing effort to rebuild their lives. One ­survivor, Alexis Lebrun, who hid under bodies for two hours and eventually managed to escape the melee, has sworn off live music ­altogether. "I'm a different man now," says the 27-year-old native of Paris suburb Massy.

That view should have French promoters concerned, but the ­prevailing sentiment seems to be closer to one adopted by survivors ­association Life for Paris. "We learn to enjoy life a bit more every day. ... We don't need to hide," member Lydia Vassalo told Newsweek.

Indeed, other venue ­owners are pointing to an unspoken bond between concertgoers and those behind the scenes. "Everybody is ­sticking together," says Renaud Barillet, CEO of La Bellevilloise (capacity 1,200) and two smaller ­downtown venues, ­adding that audiences are showing few signs of impatience during ­mandatory ­pat-downs and bag checks. Adds Laurent Sabatier, manager of Les Docks de Paris, a Saint-Denis venue with three event spaces, and a ­member of Prodiss, the main ­organization of club owners and ­promoters: "What was a drag got friendly and relaxed -- and faster."

Still, the industry has a ways to go. Security experts have been inspecting venues all over France to assess their preparedness. "We used to get training on fire ­hazards or brawls between ­skinheads and punks at a ­hardcore gig; we basically have to learn a new job," says Sabatier, comparing live music's learning curve with that of the airline industry's in the early 2000s.

And they're educating ­customers, too. Venues have launched ­several PR ­campaigns -- among them #PlusQueJamais ("more than ever") -- and distributed fliers of dos and don'ts. Plus, Parisians are considering more tangible changes, "like ­enlarging the pavement and ­adding barriers or ­obstacles, such as big flower pots to ­prevent ram-raids," says Sabatier. "Nobody wants to change a club into an airport hall," says Benoit Maume, artistic director of Silencio, a David Lynch-designed private club, and ­former staffer at Nouveau Casino located near the Bataclan.

A Festival Security Expert Weighs in on Heightened Security Post-Paris Attacks

At the same time, awareness of being a "soft target" for terrorism has had an impact. "Security costs have increased by an average of 30 ­percent for ­venues," says Sabatier. So far, the bills are only partly covered by a ­government fund of €4 million ($4.5 million) that is quickly being depleted (the industry asked for €50 million at minimum). "In case of a possible attack, or after a prank call -- a promoter's worst nightmare -- what should a promoter do? What if I cancel my event because of a threat or if an attack occurs miles away? Will I be ­covered? These are tough questions."

For many venues, more bad news arose after the Bataclan tragedy: Local insurance companies had ­modified ­contractual terms in January 2015 after the attack at ­newspaper Charlie Hebdo, so it had already become harder -- and pricier -- to insure an event. Some ­promoters are ­turning to ­international brokers to find ­better deals.An insider says it has become ­increasingly ­difficult to book American bands: "To put it bluntly, they are fine with ­avoiding France for their European summer tour." But John Reid, president of European concerts for Live Nation, takes issue with that characterization, ­telling Billboard: "Not true. Everyone is routed through Paris, and even some regional shows in France this summer."

Matthew Caws, frontman for veteran indie band Nada Surf, who performed two shows in the city in April and are one of the first acts booked to perform at the reopened Bataclan on Dec. 2, sees a greater purpose in ­playing Paris. "We're not nervous about playing there in the same way we weren't nervous being in New York after 9/11," he says. "We want to help contribute to a sense of life continuing as it did before, and in the same spirit, [Bataclan] is our favorite venue in Paris. We want to help people have a good time and bring positive intentions, which stand in opposition to fear." 

Eagles Of Death Metal Perform In Paris For Terror Attack Survivors

In England, there's a similar ­sentiment. "Security is a fine balance -- you have to ­provide reassurance so people feel safe, ­comfortable and happy to come, but you don't want to make security such a big concern that it prohibits their ability to enjoy ­themselves," says Rebecca Kane Burton, GM at London's O2 Arena. "That's the tightrope we walk, but we're still doing 200 ­performances a year. We open the ­building as much as we can."

But Maume offers a different view. "If the terrorists' motive was ­spreading fear, they've already won," he says, noting that even his own nights out have been marred. "My first reflex is ­checking an emergency exit."

Adds Sabatier: "People get it. We are no longer living in an emergency situation, but still at the beginning of a long, substantive process. We know the menace is here to stay."

Additional reporting by Richard Smirke and Ray Waddell. This article was originally published in the April 30 issue of Billboard.

THE BILLBOARD BIZ
SUBSCRIBER EXPERIENCE

The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard.com/business.


To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.