Monday night saw Ville Valo’s long awaited return to Scotland, debuting “Neon Noir” and solidifying his status as the ultimate cult front man.
I had barely parked when I saw my first heartagram of the evening, a bumper sticker on the car in front of me, the North Star for HIM and VV fans alike it was the first of many. It truly brought home how much of an event this evening was for fans who’d been aching for the return of their enigmatic front man.
To get the night started the audience had the pleasure of being indoctrinated into the world of Kælan Mikla.
The group consisting of Laufey Soffía (lead vocals), Margrét Rósa Dóru-Harrýsdóttir (bass) and Sólveig Matthildur Kristjánsdóttir (synthesizer) hypnotised with an ethereal performance and true to their personal aesthetic, the band sounded exactly as they looked – gothic, mystic and a little bit unhinged.
Their Icelandic tongue, undulating synths and synchronised swaying soon had the crowd under their spell, lulling everyone into a sweet, soft, swaying, solitude that would periodically shatter with Laufey’s screeching into the heavens, reminding everyone exactly who was on the stage in front of them. I respect that. Cool Icelandic girls who we later find out were Shrek obsessives – an excellent start to the evenings proceedings.
Murmurs of setlists and after show signings began to swirl around the venue as we wait for VV to arrive. His pull on the fans is nothing short of astounding despite being out of the spotlight/music scene since HIM split up (with the exception of 2019’s album with The Agents). The unwavering faith and support from his fans is palpable and would soon be reflected back to the audience…
The lights dim and the band, Mikko Virta on guitar, Risto Rikala on drums, Sampo Sundström on guitar and Juho Vehmanen on bass, step out on stage. Valo strides up to the microphone with the confidence of a man who’s definitely done this before. He basks in the applause for a moment whilst “Echolocate Your Love” begins to fade in.
The new material is lyrically haunting, built on a foundation of gentle frantic builds and slow easing releases. It’s arguably quintessential Valo. If anything the main difference would be the clarity of Valo’s voice. Whether it’s the new clean lifestyle or simply aging like fine wine, there’s no denying he sounds amazing. Without taking a breath they launch into Funeral of Hearts and the pendulum between Neon Noir and HIM’s back catalogue begins.
The depth and haunting beauty in Valo’s lyricism is framed beautifully by the production, heartagram’s projected on every surface imaginable and a rather tasteful nod to the Scottish audience in the shape of a blue and white heartagram at the end of the show was a nice touch.
The songs flow seamlessly between the two catalogues, a testament to the authenticity and precision of Valo’s sound and vision. This was obviously a setlist curated by an act who loves their fans, who lap up the highs of hearing new tracks live and relish in the lust of tracks from the past.
Valo flies through the set. A man of few words, he spends most of the evening locking eyes with those in the front row, a corner of a smile here, a wink there. At one point he simply looks at someone to the side of the stage and initiates screaming hysteria.
He’s a man of few words, but when he does speak, it’s to thank the band and the fans before leaving the stage abruptly pre-encore.
Without skipping a beat they storm back on stage and launch straight into Soul on Fire, a welcome injection of power into the show before rounding off the show with the trio of Salute the Sanguine, Poison Girl and finishing on Saturnine Saturnalia.
In essence, this was a show of two halves, a nod to the past for those who opt for nostalgia and a look toward the future where Valo’s sound and vision can be enjoyed and interpreted for generations to come.
Words by Fiona Jones
Photos by Marilena Vlachopoulou (www.instagram.com/darkroom.memoir)