It was as though my soul had been preparing for something to happen. Something that would move me in ways that had not happened in a very long time. For several months preceding the arrival of the Finnish five-piece rock band, HIM, for their very first tour of the U.S ever, I was often distracted. Things that I would typically find entertaining weren’t quite as satisfying. Music I would listen to [other than HIM] left me feeling needy. I was definitely keeping something on reserve. I knew I would need to. This was going to be big.
May 4th finally rolled around and I was a bit of a wreck. I had already forewarned my boss and co-workers, explaining that for the next three days, I would most likely arrive at the office in a haze. I was correct in my predictions. The things that had occurred on the night of May 4th and the nights that followed were everything I had been looking forward to, and then some. In fact, the feelings I was left in the end have far surpassed anything I’d been expecting.
The Whisky has always been a bit of a struggle for those in attendance at shows. The stage is high and quite small. The bands never seem to be able to take the stage on time. The temperature inside the club reaches levels that no human would stand for other than during the conditions of a rock show. But there they were, black clad and snaking around the building, one after the other after the other.
These were the fans that I would be spending that night and the next two nights with. Sweating together. Moving together as though we were part of a human wheat field. Crushing into one another beneath the lights. Willingly handing over our ear canals to the insane decibels and loving every second of potential hearing loss. And we did.
Each night, at each show – at the Whisky, the Roxy, and Pomona’s Glass House – the audience would succumb to what can only be described as absolute aural ecstasy. We had finally come to the place where we would see our dreams come to fruition. HIM were in the United States, and we were about to witness and feel and hear what so many overseas fans had already been experiencing for years. We had been envious of those fans for a very long time. Now it was our turn to revel and be rewarded for our infinite patience.
But first, before the ultimate payoff, there were the accompanying artists who were lucky enough to share space on the stage with HIM. Kill Hannah – five truly hot and very talented guys from Chicago who knew how to endear us to them. They were soft yet cutting. Gorgeous yet somehow subtle. Polished yet humbled. And the songs they played were, by no means, anything to snub our noses at.
Kill Hannah were honored and grateful to be there in support of what vocalist, Mat, referred to often as “their heroes, HIM.” And they showed their gratitude by rocking the house each night with heartfelt songs that hit hard and sharp. They made new fans out of many, many people – and played soulfully to those who had already been loyal to them.
Another band also occupied the bill. 18 Visions – another five-piece from nearby Orange County – were all attitude and tattoos and lots and lots of heavy guitar and drums. Loud, hardcore, fast and fiery, they didn’t do a bad job of whipping the audience into a frenzy at the right moments.
However, nothing and no one could begin to touch the way it felt when the lights went down and the first strains of the intro music began to play before the members of HIM finally took the stage. Something deep in my stomach began to flutter. My senses were heightened and anxious. If there were a way to put a visual to a feeling, I would only be able to describe it by saying that what I felt was like purple twilight washing over me. Stars began to blow around. And then a huge beam of bright light overwhelmed my vision, a booming wave of sound from the audience rose to the occasion … and that was when Ville Valo appeared.
Never had I been so certain of a man’s destiny to become a rock star as I was when I first saw him move, heard him speak, and felt the effects of his voice belting out song after song. He would engage the audience, speaking directly to at least one of us each night during the performance. A cigarette would perpetually burn between his fingers. In fact, that onstage cigarette is as much a part of his performance as anything else he does. [Not unlike Johnny Depp, Ville Valo has a way of making the nasty habit of smoking look like sex.] He always, always has something in his hands while performing and if not, he is unconsciously rubbing his thumb against his forefinger and middle finger – as if to ward off any semblance of anxiety.
In terms of personality, everything from alarming charm to a razor sharp sense of humor to immaculate manners and completely sincere humility all have a way of coming through. Still, within all of the down to Earth qualities, there is something otherworldly about him when he walks out on stage. The man is stunning to look at, of course. Perhaps he knows exactly what he does to the audience, but there is not a trace of pretense. He just “is”, and that is what makes him a star.
Ville Valo possesses an undeniable presence – matched only by sheer, raw talent – with his 4 incredibly talented band mates allowing that presence to carry them through night after night when they tour, and track after track while they record. It’s a beautiful relationship. One that pays off with an arsenal of mind-blowing rock songs that boast some of the most darkly, romantic lyrics ever penned. And there are no apologies for the blatant nods to their goth metal roots. This is death, love, blood, and loss all wrapped up inside of a velvet voice anchored by solid as a rock talent on the keyboards, bass, guitar and drums.
At first, when I thought about writing this review, I figured I would just stick to the basics and do my best to describe what happened ton the stage during the three nights that I was able to attend the HIM shows here, in Southern California. A set list, you say? Sure, I can do that. But let me put it to you this way: There is no describing the afterglow, or the way you feel while you writhe within the grasp of a live HIM performance. It’s not that simple. What this band does works magic on you. And you can’t know that magic unless you’ve seen and heard and felt it for yourself.
I’ve been going through withdrawals since we left the Glass House last Thursday night. It came as a shock to discover that I actually missed losing sleep in order to spend my evenings in the company of Ville, Linde, Mige, Gas and Burton. I don’t imagine this feeling will subside anytime soon. In fact, I think a trip overseas is in order. Time to get myself a passport. This girl needs another HIM fix, and fast.
To view the images from the shows, click here (window popup)