‘I’m not afraid to return to Bataclan’, says Marianne Faithfull

English singer Marianne Faithfull. — AFP pic
English singer Marianne Faithfull. — AFP pic

PARIS, Oct 12 — Marianne Faithfull knows why some musicians are reluctant to return to play at the Bataclan concert hall in Paris, where jihadist gunmen massacred 90 people last year.

But one of rock’s great survivors, whose voice and body carry the scars of battling through cancer, heroin and alcohol addictions, will not be put off.

She will perform there next month, a week after a concert by another reborn British star Pete Doherty reopens the refurbished venue. His sold-out gig will be just three days after the first anniversary of the November 13 attacks.

“I understand that it’s frightening. And I don’t blame them,” Faithfull, 69, told AFP. “But there is no point in being afraid.

“I don’t think it will happen again,” she adds of another terror attack. “And if it does, it does. What can you do?”

The icon of the "Swinging Sixties” said she was “not going to say anything” about the fateful night when she takes the Bataclan stage on November 25.

Instead Faithfull, who lives between Paris and Ireland, will sing They Come at Night, a song she wrote in the days after gunmen burst into a concert by the US band Eagles of Death Metal.

“The fact that I am doing the concert and that I wrote the song speaks for itself,” said the singer who was Rolling Stone Mick Jagger’s one-time partner and muse.

Writing the song, which only her band and her manager have heard, was “the only thing I could do”, she said as she lit a cigarette.

“Everybody was completely traumatised by the whole thing. It was just so terrible.”

She explained that she had not put herself forward to play at the resurrected Bataclan. Instead, “they asked me... It seemed very natural.”.

‘Music can be healing’

The concert, she insisted, will be a homage not just to the dead but those left injured and traumatised by what they saw.

Faithfull is convinced that music can help reclaim the venue from the horror.

“I think that music makes people happy... and it can be very healing, which is why (reopening) the Bataclan is a very good thing. And if I can help do that, I am glad.”

Two days after Doherty’s concert, the Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour and his Super Etoile de Dakar band are billed to appear in what is also likely to be a highly emotional night.

The Muslim musician, who sees himself as an ambassador of peace and tolerance, will play the Bataclan for two nights.

Faithfull, who played her show of Kurt Weill cabaret songs there in the past, says, “I love the Bataclan”.

And she adds the French capital is a resilient place. “Paris has been marked by many terrible events. And this is one of them.”

Independent spirit

Most of the songs she will sing at the Bataclan will be from the newly released live album from that tour, No Exit.

The woman who would go on to record the classic album Broken English was first spotted aged just 17 in 1964 by the Rolling Stones’ manager.

Jagger and Keith Richards wrote her first hit As Tears Go By and she began a tumultuous four-year relationship with the frontman.

Faithfull was much too independent a spirit to be restricted to the role of rock star girlfriend.

A descendant of the Austro-Hungarian writer Leopold Ritter von Sacher-Masoch, who wrote Venus in Furs, and from whose name the word masochism was taken, she had her own ideas.

“I was thinking of going back to school” at the time she met Jagger, she told AFP. “Then I got caught up in it, and I was successful. I discovered I love performing. And I love music. It wasn’t how I planned my life, not at all.”

After years as a drug addict on the streets of London after her bruising break-up with Jagger — who got custody of their son — she returned to the spotlight with the punkish, post-reggae album Broken English in 1979.

Over the past two years Faithfull has faced personal challenges — she broke her hip during a tour to mark her half century in the business, and was then laid low by an infection in the bone.

Despite such health problems, which now limit her touring to Europe, she is hoping to release a new album Negative Capability, with possible collaborations in the offing with Nick Cave and Damon Albarn.

But she hates the word “survivor... A survivor is somebody who got through Auschwitz,” she said. “I’ve had a wonderful life.” — AFP/Relaxnews