Tears flow as Eagles of Death Metal prepare for Paris return
Eagles of Death Metal frontman Jesse Hughes has taken off his rose-tinted sunglasses and tears are pouring down his face into his red moustache.
It is the night before the toughest gig of his life, when the band will on Tuesday play again in front of the fans who survived November's massacre at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris.
For Hughes, a rock star-cum-preacher, this is his Gethsemane.
"I am scared, I am really scared," he told AFP in a highly emotional interview.
"I hope I can walk out on that stage and be stronger than I am being right now. I don't want to fall to pieces in front of everyone. That is my biggest fear.
"I can't let my friends down," he said, referring to the band's fans, 90 of whom died in the bloodbath. "Because they haven't let me down.
"The moment (the killing) was happening, as I was running for my life down the alleyway, a guy was next to me and he was having trouble walking. I could see he was bleeding heavily from his side and I still don't know what happened to him.
"He sucked in a breath and he said: 'Your last show was a lot better'."
Hughes let out a loud throaty laugh, letting his box of 200 Camel cigarettes drop to the floor, only for the tears once again to appear in his eyes.
- 'So incredibly brave' -
"That is so incredibly brave," he said, "to make a joke, to keep it light... They were facing death and their mind was on lightening the mood. That is the example I am going endeavour to follow (at the gig)... It is going to be regular rock show.
"It is heavy enough as it is," he said, knowing that some of the band's fans will have to be helped into the Olympia theatre in wheelchairs and crutches, while others are as yet too traumatised to go.
"I want to see my friends smile again," Hughes added, choking back the tears. "I want to see all those smiles that greeted me in Paris that night. I really need to see those faces smiling again."
He believed destiny was driving the band to return, only three months after 130 people were killed across Paris by jihadist gunmen.
"Does it really matter if I feel it is too early? The time is now. Some people think it is too early for cancer surgery, but the time is now to cut it out.
"This is a psychological, emotional cancer that infected the whole world and I think we are in the midst of seeing one of the most beautiful things that you can see... a group of people refusing to let this cancer take over.
"It is not supposed to be easy. It is supposed to be hard," he said.
While some psychological trauma experts have said it may be too early for many fans to face such a cathartic experience, Hughes said he needed to go back on tour for himself.
"This is therapy for me. I am selfish... When you are drunk and you throw up it sucks, but you end up feeling a whole lot better in the long run. As long as you take three aspirins and 35 ounces of water. I just want to know what the water is going to be.
- Josh Homme on stage -
"I understand what the people who cannot come are feeling. I know in my heart the right thing to do is the hardest thing to do. And the thing that is going to achieve the exponential amount of healing is the thing that is hardest."
Hughes said he would not have been able to go back on stage without Eagles co-founder Josh Homme, who left his hours-old newborn son Wolf in California to play in Paris.
"The fact that we were here will help those people who can't come, I am sure," Homme told AFP.
He said the concert was one way to battle their demons: "I hope and pray everyone is going to leave some shit there and make room for some new good stuff."
Homme, best known at the lead singer of rock band the Queens of the Stone Age, was not on stage with the Eagles on the night of the Paris attacks, which were claimed by the Islamic State group.
"Josh is the best friend anyone could ever ask for," Hughes said hugging him. "Our relationship started at school with him defending me from a bully. And these motherfuckers are the ultimate bullies.
"I need my best friend up there with me. I didn't want to let him know how bad I needed it because I wanted to put on a brave face.
"It will (make) all the difference for me to look behind me and see my best friend there," he said.
© 2016 AFP