Three Historic Performances at Paris’ Le Bataclan: The Velvet Underground (1972), Genesis with Peter Gabriel (1973) & Jeff Buckley (1995)

After every ter­ri­ble tragedy in the West, we expect celebri­ties to weigh in. And they do, with com­ments insight­ful and heart­felt, appalling and boor­ish, per­func­to­ry and banal. Often, the larg­er the pub­lic pro­file, the more self-serv­ing the sound­bite. One take in par­tic­u­lar has pro­voked sneers and ridicule: Bono—who paid respects with his band at music venue Le Bat­a­clantold an inter­view­er, “this is the first direct hit on music we’ve had in this so-called War on Ter­ror.” Twit­terati, the Com­men­tari­at, and, well, folks, did not take kind­ly to the state­ment, with many point­ing out an ear­li­er “hit on music” in Feb­ru­ary and accus­ing U2’s front­man of mak­ing the mon­strous attacks on the Paris music venue about him­self.

One can under­stand the sen­ti­ment, with­out excus­ing the ver­biage. Le Bataclan—scene of what has right­ly been called a “blood­bath”—has occu­pied a sig­nif­i­cant place in pop music his­to­ry since it start­ed book­ing rock bands in the 1970s; and it has host­ed famous musi­cians and singers—like Edith Piaf—since its open­ing in 1864. It does not min­i­mize the tremen­dous pain of the hor­rif­ic mur­der of 89 Eagles of Death Met­al fans this past Fri­day to say that the assault has also deeply dis­turbed musi­cians and music fans world­wide.

Grief leads us to remem­brance, and we can memo­ri­al­ize le Bat­a­clan (named after the French operetta Ba-ta-clan) for its long his­to­ry before last Fri­day’s hor­ror. One of the most his­toric con­certs there occurred in 1972, when John Cale reunit­ed with his for­mer Vel­vet Under­ground band­mates Lou Reed and Nico for acoustic ren­di­tions of “Hero­in,” “The Black Angel’s Death Song,” and “Femme Fatale.” We cov­ered that con­cert in a pre­vi­ous post. See it again at the top of this one. The fol­low­ing year, a band at the height of its career—or the first phase of it anyway—graced le Bataclan’s stage before going on to blow minds at London’s Shep­per­ton Stu­dios. Just above, see the Peter Gabriel-front­ed Gen­e­sis play “The Musi­cal Box,” “Supper’s Ready,” “Return of the Giant Hog­weed,” and “The Knife.”

Too many oth­ers to name have played le Bat­a­clan through the years—from Prince (who jammed out Zeppelin’s “Whole Lot­ta Love”) to Oasis. Per­haps one of the most mov­ing per­for­mances the venue host­ed came from Jeff Buck­ley in 1995, whose con­cert there was released as a live album the fol­low­ing year. Buck­ley sang his med­ley of Edith Piaf’s “Je N’en Con­nais Pas La Fin/Hymne A L’Amour” (above)—in hind­sight an espe­cial­ly poignant ren­di­tion two years before his untime­ly death. “By the time Buck­ley switch­es over to French,” writes All­mu­sic, “the crowd erupts at the end of every phrase, catch­ing him off guard with their enthu­si­asm.” He end­ed the show with the near­ly 10-minute ver­sion of Leonard Cohen’s “Hal­lelu­jah” below, a song he became known for and that serves as well as any oth­er as a trib­ute to le Bat­a­clan in these dark days of mourn­ing, war, and ret­ri­bu­tion. “Love is not a vic­to­ry march,” sings Buck­ley, his voice crack­ing, “It’s a cold and it’s a bro­ken Hal­lelu­jah.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Gen­e­sis (from the Peter Gabriel Era) Per­form in a Glo­ri­ous, 1973 Restored Con­cert Film

Lou Reed, John Cale & Nico Reunite, Play Acoustic Vel­vet Under­ground Songs on French TV, 1972

Édith Piaf’s Mov­ing Per­for­mance of ‘La Vie en Rose’ on French TV, 1954

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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