Music fans at the Bataclan concert hall said “life must go on” as Sting took to the stage to mark one year since the Paris terrorist attacks.
The former Police frontman, 65, re-opened the 150-year-old venue, in a fashionable district of the French capital, where 89 people were killed on November 13 last year.
There was a heavy police presence outside the theatre and revellers were being searched more than once as they made their way in on the eve of the anniversary of the massacre.
Islamic extremist suicide bombers – Frenchmen Omar Ismail Mostefai, 29, Samy Amimour, 28, and Foued Mohamed-Aggad, 23 – stormed into the concert hall as US rock band Eagles Of Death Metal performed, while attackers also targeted cafes and the Stade de France. In total 130 people died, including Briton Nick Alexander.
Mr Alexander had been on tour with the American band selling merchandise and tried to play dead when he was approached by one of the gunmen who opened fire.
Appearing on stage to loud cheers, Sting spoke French throughout to the packed crowd, saying: “We’ve got two important things to do tonight…
“First, to remember and honour those who lost their lives in the attacks a year ago, and to celebrate the life and the music of this historic venue.
“So before we begin, I would like to ask that we observe one minute of silence … We shall not forget them.”
After the minute of silence, the star launched into a string of hits including Englishman in New York, Every Breath You Take, Roxanne and Message In A Bottle.
Laura Sanchez, 41, who travelled to Sting’s show from Cadiz in Spain, was one of the first people to take up a position in front of the stage.
“I come from Madrid and we also have a problem with terrorism. I think life must go on and continue.
“They want to stop us and no one has the right to stop us,” she told the Press Association.
Her friend Ricardo de la Vega, also 41, said this was his 45th Sting concert, having watched the star perform in Italy, Spain, Portugal, France and the UK.
An Italian man who lives in Paris, who only wanted to give his first name, Stefano, said: “Sting is part of our youth but we also decided to come because of the Bataclan. We hesitated at the beginning but we decided that life must be stronger.”
Sarah Marrer, 18, from Lille, said it is important to “show that we’re not afraid”, adding: “I think it’s important that every French person and everyone can come here and enjoy and show that it’s not over.”
Iris Bazantay, 18, from Paris, said she and her friends are big fans of Sting, adding: “It’s a concert we couldn’t miss because we have friends that were here last year. Even if we weren’t there last year we have been touched.”
She said one of her boyfriend’s best friends was in the venue on the night of the attack.
“It’s traumatising. I think they are nervous but I think it’s important for them to be here,” she said.
Natalie Hugon, 45, who works in Cannes, was among mourners laying flowers at a shrine opposite the venue.
She said her 22-year-old son ran for his life when crowds celebrating Bastille Day were attacked in Nice in July, hiding for two hours in a bar to protect himself.
“It was the most awful night of my life,” Ms Hugon told the Press Association.
“I want peace in the world,” she said.
Leslie Podevin, 31, from Nantes, is in Paris for the weekend with her friend and friend’s mother who walked away in tears.
The trio laid flowers and Ms Podevin said: “We came here because we think it’s important.
“We want to remember this day. When we saw the date we thought we have to come here and do something.”
A woman called Martine, who said she knew someone who escaped from Le Petit Cambodge, laid a single rose opposite the Bataclan.
On the night of the massacre, gunmen with Kalashnikovs opened fire at Le Carillon bar and Le Petit Cambodge restaurant in Rue Alibert in the city’s 10th district, killing 15 and injuring 10.
Martine said that while the survivor got out alive they still re-live in their mind the horrors of the atrocity.
Ahead of the concert, Sting said: “In re-opening the Bataclan, we have two important tasks to reconcile. First, to remember and honour those who lost their lives in the attack a year ago, and second, to celebrate the life and the music that this historic theatre represents.
“In doing so we hope to respect the memory as well as the life-affirming spirit of those who fell. We shall not forget them.”
All revenue from the show will be donated to Life For Paris and 13 Novembre: Fraternite Verite.