HIM - KOKO, London - October 31 2013 (Live Review)

Monday, 04 November 2013 Written by Alec Chillingworth

Camden is full of weirdos on any given night of the year. But, with tonight being All Hallows Eve’, well, it's all gone a bit mental. A drunk woman runs around dressed as a pumpkin a la Angus, Thongs And Perfect Snogging, a man in a superb Clockwork Orange get-up struggles with an ATM near McDonald’s. A couple of elderly gents eat face on a bench, but the fake blood creates the creepy illusion of face actually being eaten. Basically, it’s a lot like the backdrop to a Romero flick with a dash of Poe for good measure – the perfect setting for a HIM show.

Nevertheless, it's a bit disheartening to walk into KOKO and see an audience being bored shitless by Massachusetts post-rockers Caspian. A band with incredible musicianship and genuinely interesting songs should be an instant winner, but this crowd only had one thing on their mind, and it wasn’t 10 minute prog-masterpieces devoid of vocals.

By the time they finished, with a synchronised percussive orgy that involved all five members pelting the drums like something from a Sky TV advert, only a tiny portion of the audience remained genuinely interested. It’s a shame, as a crowd for Swans or Pelican would have found plenty to lap up.

Polite applause was soon replaced by swathes of disturbingly excited screams from the female attendees (and, to be honest, the blokes too) as HIM frontman/very pretty man Ville Valo sauntered on stage with his band, kicking things off with new track All Lips Go Blue. The Scandinavian goth rockers sounded glorious; Mikko Paananen in particular was an absolute beast, his thunderous bass acting as the embodiment of his gargantuan build.

Valo looked so out of place - a schoolboy amid a crowd of sixth-formers, Cheryl Cole at a Weight Watchers session. His vocals started out slightly wobbly, occasionally straying from the path of, well, being in tune. But by the time HIM kicked into Buried Alive By Love he'd found his feet, demanding crowd participation and generally looking and sounding like he could be arsed to do his job.

Set-wise, this was a HIM fan's wet dream. Following Buried Alive By Love came Wings Of A Butterfly, and then it was time for Right Here In My Arms. A lesser band would avoid a track order like this, saving the hits for the tail-end of the set. But HIM don't suffer from such a problem, their back catalogue is rammed full of tunes.

The title track to this year's superb 'Tears On Tape' opus went down just as well as timeless anthems such as Your Sweet Six Six Six – a testament to HIM's consistent song-crafting skills. Valo loosened up as the evening progressed, taking great amusement in switching from his trademark croon to an evil baritone drawl in It's All Tears (Drown In This Love).

HIM played with the utmost professionalism, sprinkling a shower of songs over London that most bands would be jealous of. The crowd was on hand to represent one of the most dedicated fanbases in metal music - they're sometimes a tad too enthusiastic, with a guy dressed as a zombie being ejected by security for hitting people - and on the first of two sold-out London shows, HIM proved that they are still painfully relevant. Over 20 years on, Valo's musical bulldozer shows no signs of slowing down.


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