Review of HIM live at Dingwalls
First off, if a HIM fan ever tells you this band is amazing live… they’re only partially telling the truth. The Dingwalls gig marks the 10th headline show I’ve seen the band perform and I can tell you that if there is one thing these guys are, it’s inconsistent. So much so, I’d go as far as to say they are consistently inconsistent. They have done some TERRIBLE shows in the past, out of the 9 previous encounters, they had technical failures at 3 gigs and Ville Valo forgot the lyrics to various songs due to being completely inebriated at two of them. Two gigs in particular suffered from such terrible sound quality that neither my friends nor myself could identify certain songs until part way in. An example that forever sticks in my mind is Hammersmith 2004, we got to the second chorus of ‘And Love Said No’ before anyone in my group could tell which song it was, incidentally I would possibly rate that as the single WORST headline show I have ever seen.
Valo’s witty charm and charisma that fans hold in such high esteem is also more than questionable at times. On the rare occasions that his mutterings are even discernable the actual words are often nonsensical and he has a habit of turning his head away from the stage or closing his eyes at every opportunity so as to avoid looking at his audience.
But HIM is a band of contrasts and for every terrible show they’ve done there is also a gem where the sound is tight, Valo is entertaining and the band in general creates a great atmosphere and really gets the crowd going. One of my friends who has written for this very website has only seen the band twice and he can testify to how different the quality was between those two shows alone. So if you pay money to see HIM then be warned, you could be paying for shit, champagne or anything in between.
Now that I’ve got that moan out of the way, where exactly on the shit – champagne scale did the Dingwalls show end up? Well actually, quite close to the champagne mark! This show coincided with the UK and Finnish release date of their 8th studio album ‘Tears On Tape’. So the fans supposedly had less than 24 hours to learn the new material before the gig, which was not really the case because the album leaked about 3 weeks ago.
I think HIM is a band that requires an intimate setting, the dark, small, grimy places suit them best and venues for big-ish bands don’t come much smaller than Dingwalls with a maximum capacity of 500 people and possibly a guide dog.
The band entered the stage rather casually with Valo surprisingly grabbing an acoustic guitar before they ripped into new single ‘All Lips Go Blue’, a song that incorporates a curious combination of very heavy and distorted riffs and sweet melancholic vocals. The first thing that struck me was the sound was really tight, in fact I’ll make the point now that for the duration this was the tightest set I have ever seen the band play. A terrific performance!
The only minor criticism I had was that the keyboards got drowned out on three occasions, firstly during ‘Right here in my arms’, which is fine ‘cus the keys do nothing in that song anyway. The other two were during new song ‘Tears on tape’ and classic ‘When love and death embrace’. A lack of keyboard is an issue for these numbers since in both cases the keys carry the whole song! Those nitpicks aside, couldn’t fault the sound.
The stage set-up was minimalistic with just a banner of the latest Heartagram design and a few lights. Bass player Mige is always a joy to watch who often gets so energised by even the softest of songs that it looks like he’s about to go into cardiac arrest at any moment, it’s adorable. The show was stolen by my favourite band member axeman “Linde” aka Daniel Lioneye aka Lily Lazer aka Mikko Vilijami Lindström (how many pseudonyms does one man really need!?). But seriously, Linde’s guitar work has progressed so much over the years, his solos are always show highlights and on this occasion he won man of the match.
After suffering nerve damage to his forearms that put the band on a 2-year hiatus it is great to see Gas back to his old self behind the drums. Not much to say about keyboardist Burton who always looks bored as hell and I noticed he’s even given up on standing now as he actually did the whole gig seated and possibly half asleep.
Valo himself was on amazing form in terms of vocals and I’ve never heard him so clearly before, awesome deliveries all round although his best moment for me was ‘Soul on fire’. This is in stark contrast to his between-song banter, which was as nonsensical, dull and unenlightening as ever before. It’s so odd because in interviews he demonstrates a phenomenal vocabulary, great sense of humour, biting wit and the man is obviously very intelligent… yet put him in front of an audience and all that invariably goes to shit! I think he should follow the Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth) or Til Lindeman (Rammstein) school of being a front man by saying absolutely fuck all and let the music do the talking.
The setlist was for the most part predictable yet very extensive, firing out hit after hit with a couple of lovely surprises along the way. Classic staples from the first two albums included ‘Your sweet six six six’, ‘Join me in death’ and of course their iconic cover of Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked game’, heard them all 9 times before and still not tired of ‘em! So the only glaring omission from the norm was ‘Poison girl’ which finally got relegated after being played at virtually every show since the song’s inception back in 1999… she will be missed. Previous album Screamworks had no representation, not too surprising considering how it polarised the fan base, was a commercial failure according Valo himself and sparked what many thought to be the beginning of the end for the band. I actually enjoy most of that album but I was happy that they’d given it a rest this time because they managed to fill the gap with more tracks from my favourite record ‘Venus Doom’!
Absolute highlight of the evening was the encore ‘Sleepwalking past hope’, my favourite HIM song since the debut record and a testament to the band as a whole… doomy Sabbath riffs, melancholic keys, chugging bass, the full range of
Valo’s vocals and lots of Linde’s axe. Awesome!
In conclusion HIM has risen from the ashes of their prolonged silence. The boys were on the mark musically and seemed to be enjoying themselves (except Burton… CHEER UP!); I look forward to seeing them at Download and hopefully on a full UK tour later this year.
PS. Expect an album review of ‘Tears on Tape’ very soon.
All Lips Go Blue
Buried Alive By Love
Rip Out The Wings Of A Butterfly
Right Here In My Arms
The Kiss Of Dawn
Hearts At War
Join Me In Death
Your Sweet Six Six Six
Passion’s Killing Floor
Tears On Tape
It’s All tears (Drown In This Love)
Soul On Fire
Into The Night
The Funeral Of Hearts
When Love And Death Embrace
Sleepwalking Past Hope.
HIM Gig Rating 9/10
Review by Al Westlake