Halloween is the perfect setting for HIM to play their first of two sold out shows at London’s Koko with fans in full costume flooding in to see Finland’s finest love metal band, touring in support of their 2013 album, ‘Tears On Tape’. These people don’t just like HIM, they live for them. There are heartagrams from wall-to-wall inside the venue, whether they’re shirts, patches, tattoos, or posters, the place is covered.
Boston post-rock band Caspian (***) kick off the evening to a few confused faces, some thinking perhaps the Americans are a strange choice of support and some looking around endlessly for a singer to show up. The experimental six-piece get through 40 minutes worth of instrumental atmospheric music which mildly warms the crowd before the main event. They modestly mutter “Thanks for keeping an open mind” after their epic drum crescendo finale, before they leave the stage to a relatively loud applause.
You can hardly hear the sound of ‘Tears On Tape’ intro ‘Unleash The Red’ play on the speakers as HIM (****) take to the stage due to the screams of excitement from ghouls, vampires and even a bloody Austin Powers. After a well received opener of new-ish single, ‘All Lips Go Blue’, frontman Ville Valo leads the band into an onslaught of killer hits, with ‘Rip Out The Wings Of A Butterfly’ and ‘Right Here In My Arms’ hitting the set list early, and the band leaving the title line from the ‘Buried Alive By Love’ chorus to the Koko floor.
The highlight of the set for most is obvious as Valo approaches the microphone with an acoustic guitar in hand, and the piano notes start ‘Join Me In Death’. The place erupts and nights are made instantly. After a couple of softer songs, HIM pick up the pace with their cover of Chris Isaak‘s ‘Wicked Game’ which has the crowd dancing to Mikko Paananen‘s funky bass riff, before Valo shows off his ghostly vocals in ‘It’s All Tears (Drown In This Love)’.
Being an established band for 20 years now, HIM were always going to have to miss out hits and sure enough disappoint a few with particular omissions, but a great performance from the band puts everyone at ease. “For once, let’s let the music do the talking” is as much as you’re getting out of Ville Valo tonight (bar piping up to aid the security in a crowd zombie incident), but main set closer ‘The Funeral Of Hearts’ is easily enough to please the majority, and an encore of ‘When Love And Death Embrace’ is certainly enough to let the die-hard fans leave happily.
Written by Mike Heath