It’s Saturday the 26th of October 2013 at Nottingham’s, Rock city and Mojo20 find themselves in a room, absolutely filled to capacity with adoring and loyal fans to one of Scandinavia’s biggest exports. Twenty one years after beginning, H.I.M is in the middle of an international tour following the release of their eighth studio album ‘Tears On Tape’. Upon its release back in April, I listened to it, and even reviewed it with some indifference at first, but in two more listens it became one of my favourites this year. I’ve been a super fan since the age of 13, and have every recording they’ve ever released and a tattoo on my back in honour of them. This is also my second opportunity to see them live (the last time being in 2007 at the now closed London Astoria), so excitement levels are high for me and the rest of the Mojo20 contingent.
Before they even get to the stage, my jaw hits the floor as the venue is genuinely PACKED. They’re hanging from the rafters tonight and it’s a warm moment as one of my favourite bands is getting the respect it deserves. Unfortunately the crowd ended up becoming the only problem, but I’ll get to this shortly. The support band, Caspian, is on stage and they’re warming the crowd up perfectly with their epic and electrifying instrumentals. The Massachusetts natives that have released three albums since beginning in 2006, are installing a look on everybody’s face that illustrates just how impressive they are. Caspian are admittedly a discovery to me at this point, but I think we were all looking forward to finding out more about them when we got home.
The lights go down and we hear the introduction track to ‘Tears On Tape’. The piano based instrumental ‘Unleash The Red’ is played as the five members of the Finnish rock band walk onto the stage to an ovation that only grows when the front man, Ville Valo walks on second to last. Through experience, I know what a modest and humble man he is, and this serves as another example to me. He knows, and we all know, that his presence is going to stir the crowd up most, but he doesn’t even indulge himself enough to walk on last. He walks on with his band, and they share the applause from the crowd.
They grab their instruments, and with no hesitation they hammer straight into the first single from ‘Tears On Tape’, the epic sing along ‘All Lips Go Blue’. Considering it was only released in April this year, the hundreds in capacity react to it like it’s an old classic. The applause rolls in as they finish their first song, and they dive head first into one of their biggest anthems. ‘Buried Alive By Love’ from 2003’s Love Metal album, blasts through the room. From there they head into ‘Wings Of A Butterfly’ which was the big hit from 2005’s Dark Light. We’re then treated to the song that really started things off for me and a lot of people I know, ‘Right Here In My Arms’. Each of these aforementioned songs were hammered out with heavy riffs, and sang back to the band by myself, and my friends. These songs are highlights of the band’s career and they’re not holding back, or staggering them at all, but instead, smashing us clean in the face with four of their biggest and best songs, one after another. A brave move, and an incredible treat for us fans.
The only problem comes, as mentioned before, when the crowd, in their hundreds and hundreds decide that staying completely still is way fun… I have never seen a more boring crowd in my life, and I genuinely hope it was enjoyed by all but nobody seemed interested in having a good time. I guess it was probably just a respectful level of attention that they were all paying, but I knew I wanted to show my respect in a more fun way. After a brief run into the crowd to shake things up, and subsequently being shown how unwelcome we were, we returned to our original spot and continued to enjoy the evening. With eight studio albums over 21 years, the band has a lot of material, like most classic bands do, so it was interesting to see what was played. At no point was I disappointed with the set. A lot of bases were covered, and the set told a story, as it wasn’t just a mish-mash of hits, but a cleverly laid out and enjoyable journey through the career and the lives of Ville Valo and the other members of HIM. We heard ‘Join Me (in death)’ which is one of the more sentimental hits HIM has had, but still one of the more successful due to it getting the number one spot in the German music charts in 1999.
We also heard ‘Wicked Game’, the Chris Isaak song that has really, over the past fifteen to twenty years become a HIM song. It’s the one song they’ve never missed off of a live show, as it has become a standard and the crowd expects it and more importantly…wants it. I will personally claim to be one of those people that wanted it. The new material goes down well with the crowd, and the classics all do as expected, and then the night gets capped off with the wonderful and beautiful ‘Funeral Of Hearts’, which was passionately sang back to them the whole way through, and at this point the crowd in attendance redeemed themselves of their earlier failings (for me anyway). Of course, an encore is always likely and these guys aren’t going to disappoint or attempt to overcome a cliché. Instead they walk back on after giving their thanks to the crowd and fall into one of their oldest and most revered songs, from their first LP from 1997 ‘Greatest Love Songs Vol. 666’. It’s one of the more down beat songs of the night, but its poesy is captivating, and to spend the last few moments of the night just watching them as they play a song even Ville Valo describes as a one off moment of genius, is an honour. It couldn’t have ended any better or any more correctly. An incredibly biased, self indulgent, nostalgic, sucking up to in case they read this, ten out of ten for a brilliant evening. Long live HIM!!
Words by Stuart Green (@mojo20_music)