As the very last lot of shows HIM are set to play on their “Bang and Whimper” tour, all the dates on their final UK run are sold out – the same as most, if not all dates on the farewell world tour. The queue that snakes around the venue is telling to this, though it’s quite difficult to ignore the peculiar feeling in the air tonight. It feels as though something isn’t quite right or that something is missing, partly due to a definite element of mystery surrounding their decision to call it a day.
While their latest album; 2013’s Tears On Tape resonated well with fans, it can’t be ignored that this doesn’t feel like the real event it should. The band seem to be in a really peculiar place without an album in four years, little well-known reasoning behind their departure and very little being said about the whole situation in the media. Why this band are not getting a fanfare goodbye baffles me. This, however, certainly shouldn’t detract from the 300+ metre queue that awaits me as I arrive at The Roundhouse tonight. To these people and many others who couldn’t make it tonight, this is an all-too-real occasion and Heartagrams are everywhere, much to the mystery of the locals.
People are still piling in from the mammoth queue outside as the opening band on this run of shows; Biters take to the stage. They’re already partway through their set, paying tribute to the late Tom Petty with a cover of “American Girl” to a largely filled 1,700 capacity Roundhouse as I emerge victoriously from the horde.
Straight away, relief comes from the fact that their live production is miles ahead of that on their albums for my taste, though they seem to be slightly swallowed by the stage tonight, particularly with HIM’s “Heartagram” towering above. The band really hit their stride with the riff-driven “Loose From The Noose”. Frontman Tuk Smith shows where his strength lies in fronting the band throughout the set and adresses the crowd nearing the end of the set. “Who’s coming to see us at The Underworld tomorrow?” gets a cheer from the crowd that could not possibly fit into the pub venue.
It’s impressive nonetheless though. They finish up with “1975” off Electric Blood, channeling all the virtues of the era that so clearly influenced them. It’s another weird choice to support the brooding gothic tendencies of tonight’s headliners but it’s certainly an impressive performance from a band of this ilk.
As the anticipation grows for the first of two nights at London’s Roundhouse, The Everly Brothers’ “Bye Bye Love” fittingly plays out. “Hey We’re HIM from Helsinki, Finland” frontman Ville Vallo modestly states. As if we didn’t know, Ville. They open with the raucous “Buried Alive By Love” with the chorus shrieking back at them, finishing with an anguished scream from Ville, possibly from a place of frustration with the sound technicians.
Everything seems to clear up by the second track however. This is “Heartache Every Moment” in which the music is brought right down for the crowd to sing over the top, much to Ville’s gratification. Due to the nature of the event and the audience, this is a phones-out affair, capturing the uncontrollable reception of “Your Sweet 666”. Ville struts and croons the stage throughout the set with an onstage presence that meets somewhere between Ozzy and Elvis. He doesn’t show a single one of his 41 years, his own buoyant, camp flair injected into the heart of all he does.
Somewhere in the first half of the set in the midst of the crowd, the collective illumination of the phone lights focus away from the stage briefly, capturing a mid-song proposal, showing just how far the influence of HIM’s melancholic “love metal” reaches. Around this point they tease “Wings of A Butterfly”, arguably the best riff of their career, before launching into the track to overwhelming affirmation from the crowd. Midway through the set, time kind of conglomerates into one with gem after gem being dug up from the HIM vaults.
The flurry of their “Wicked Game” cover (which may as well be their own song by this point) and “Killing Loneliness” is almost too much for some people to take. An appearance from “Heartkiller” is great too. Seeing the band have faith in busting out some newer material even on their last run is really special to see. This rolls into career highlight “Join Me In Death” which makes a case for the best moment of the night, particularly as the whole crowd bawl “This life ain’t worth living” in unison.
A few lesser known cuts from their earlier albums proceeds into the much adored “Right Here In My Arms”, showing once again that you don’t need to write a ballad to write a love song. I imagine ballads are actually quite detrimental to HIM’s ongoing success. Anyways, I digress. Despite saying very little between songs, they joke about needing lawyers to decide the encore. “This thankfully, is not about lawyers” cues “Funeral Of Hearts”, a terrific set closer. They come back with their long-time cover of Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell” and whilst it doesn’t vibe perfectly with the farewell aura surrounding the show tonight, they nail it and exit with nothing further, but still to a standing ovation.
Having spent the best part of their 26 year long career providing the soundtrack to generations of romance and heartbreak, the performance really is a moment. Perhaps it wasn’t the moment people were expecting. It wasn’t the flooding tears show the congregation were set for, thanks to their boisterous rendition of “Rebel Yell”. Rather, it was very much a celebration of a brilliant back-catalogue.
Now, while I certainly don’t want to provoke speculation or give false hope, given the unresolved state HIM seem to have left in, their relative youth, and Ville’s continual writing of music, I would be very surprised if we didn’t see them come back at some point in the future. Be it for good or a few festival sets, I can very easily see that happening. Nevertheless, tonight will have to do for now, and that it does as an evening of delving through fan favourites and buried gems, all of which are genuine classics. They leave behind them a brilliant legacy and a fantastic example to modern musicians. Thanks for everything, HIM.