Maintaining a band for over two decades is no mean feat, and it’s true that no matter how great (or even terrible) something may be, all things eventually come to an end. When Helsinki gothic rockers HIM announced back in March that 2017 would see them touring the world one final time before putting the band to an end, fans all over began to mourn, and dates began selling out thick and fast for them to say their goodbyes.
At the Manchester date of the UK leg, Atlanta quartet and 70s era glam rock revivalists Biters  certainly have an air of partying about them, and that decade’s brand of rock ‘n’ roll is what’s delivered in spades here; simplistic chords, and simplistic lyrics about rocking out. Frontman Tuk Smith dedicates ‘Gypsy Rose’ to his dog, and ‘Stone Cold Love’ could easily be an unused track by the likes of either Poison or Mötley Crüe.
Though a retro peek over the shoulder is fun, Biters essentially tick almost every cliché that would come to mind when you think of the genre and, even when it comes to being a bit of a throwback, being generic can only take you so far.
With only one support act for the evening, HIM  graciously leave plenty of space and time in the evening to ensure fans from every era of their career are catered to, and, with the band’s easily recognised and adored symbol of a heartagram in gigantic metallic form acting as a prominent backdrop for the set, the Finnish quintet don’t waste any time.
Coming onstage right on schedule, they get right on with it, jumping headfirst into one of the biggest hits of their career, ‘Buried Alive By Love’. The crowd roars “It feels like I’ve been buried alive by love”, the pre-chorus refrain bellowing throughout the whole of the Academy before the borderline screams of frontman Ville Valo and the rest of the band drive it home, and for almost the whole song, most of the crowd can’t seem to help but have their phones out to capture and experience the moment digitally.
Indeed, there are a handful of moments like this tonight where HIM deliver and flourish. ‘Soul On Fire’ rips through the room, ‘Rip Out The Wings Of A Butterfly’ is as catchy as it was when it debuted back in 2005, and ‘Right Here In My Arms’ is simplistic, seductive, and its hook is razor sharp. Yet, despite these brief highlights, they’re overwhelmingly eclipsed by an abundance of stagnation.
The self-proclaimed pioneers and sole banner men of the ‘love metal’ style all too often seem more prepared and settled into the demise of HIM before it has even happened. All too often it seems like they’re going through the motions, with Valo droning and crooning through fan favourites like ‘Heartache Every Moment’, ‘Join Me In Death’, and ‘Poison Girl’. He plants himself centre stage for the entirety of the set, and he and the rest of the band just seem like they’re dragging out the final days of a job they’ve lost a passion, interest, and drive for.
‘Wicked Game’, though a respectable and convincing take on the Chris Isaak original, is hampered down by a stodgy and lifeless delivery until we reach guitarist Linde Lindström‘s solo, which massively overstays its welcome. All the while, though HIM‘s aesthetic of being gothic, broody, and arguably vampiric is to be taken into account, with lighting being minimal and rarely veering away from white or purple, it’s a shame that drummer Kosmo Kröger and keyboardist Burton Puurtinen are cast in the dark for almost the entirety of the set. You know what they say; out of sight, out of mind.
Things pick up a great deal for the evening’s encore of Billy Idol‘s ‘Rebel Yell’ and ‘When Love And Death Embrace’, but it says a lot when it takes a cover and this long into the set for the band to bring life into the room one last time, but by then a salvage is no longer in sight.
With such a long lasting career, and an impression and influence on many established and upcoming bands and artists thanks to their work, HIM‘s final tour should’ve been a celebration of their career as they bow out one last time. Instead, we’re left with a 21-song set that is mostly a yawn orgy, and unfortunately a bittersweet farewell.
Written by Zach Redrup (@zachredrup)