HIM Bang and Whimper Farewell tour in Hammerstein Ballroom NYC Nov 17th

Posted on Nov 27, 2017 in BLOG | 1 comment

image3 (1)You could say I grew up listening to HIM. The first time I saw them was in 1998, during Helsinki Festival (Helsingin Juhlaviikot) at Huvila. Yes, 1998 was almost 20 years ago, and at the time I was barely in my teens. Though I never considered myself a major fan of the band, I was quite involved in the music scene and happened to see them perform many times. I have a great appreciation for Ville Valo’s song writing and the band’s energetic live performances.

In fact, several of my New Years’ Eves have been spent in attendance of a HIM concert. Every year, HIM hosts a three-day party known as Helldone Festival, which will take place one last time in December 2017. Tavastia Klubi used to be HIM’s venue of choice though this year it will be hosted at Helsinki Icehall, in order to accommodate what will certainly be a huge turnout. It will be their last concert ever.

Hammerstein Ballroom was HIM’s final stop on their “Bang and Whimper” farewell tour, making it the band’s final performance in the USA, and in North America for that matter. Like every other stop on the tour, this show was sold out.

Though I first learned of HIM when they were a small band just starting out in Finland, they have since become one of the most commercially successful Finnish bands of all time, having sold over ten million records internationally. They are also the only Finnish band to have an album achieve gold status in the US.

Suffice it to say their last show in North America was a big deal. Actually, that won’t suffice; the turnout was much more than even this reviewer could have anticipated.

Doors opened at 6.30pm, with HIM scheduled to take the stage at 9pm. We arrived around 8:30pm tickets in hand to find that the line stretched the entire block between Eight and Ninth Avenue, and around the corner. Anyone familiar with Manhattan will tell you: that’s a long line!image2 (1)

People were still arriving after us, so who knows how long the line eventually became. Luckily, it moved quickly and without incident. Security was strict in having everyone walk through a metal detector and open their bags. Once inside, my balcony-level ticket separated me from my friends who were in general admission. I was sent upstairs, they were sent downstairs. We would not be permitted to reunite until after the show.

Rumor has it only a few people saw their support band 3Teeth. That is a shame, as I thoroughly enjoyed their opening performance for Rammstein earlier this year at Jones Beach.

Soon after our entry, HIM’s set started dead on schedule. The band opened with “Buried Alive By Love”, which had the audience engaged at the first beat.

The crowd consisted of all types; guys and girls, young, old, and all ages between dressed up and down. The one thing in common was that everyone was there to enjoy the music.

The audience knew many of the lyrics by heart. Songs like “Hearthache Every Moment” and “Your Sweet Six Six Six” had everyone swaying back and forth, shaking heads, and throwing their voices at the stage. During the first half of the set, the biggest fanfare by far was during “Wings of a Butterfly”, the band’s first major radio hit.

My only wish, and this is a constant gripe, is that ticket buyers would have focused less on filming the concert with their smart pimage1 (1)hones and more on enjoying the moment while it was happening. Looking at the general admission crowd from the balcony, it appeared an ocean of smart phone lights. Very few hands were in the air sans phone. It made me sad and miss the old times. I wonder how the band feels when staring at phones? Last summer, at a show in New Jersey, I witnessed American shock rocker Rob Zombie stop mid-concert and refuse to start or continue a song if he saw any phone in the air. How refreshing!

The set continued with more fan favorites, including “Poison Girl”, “Heartkiller”, and “Tears of Tape”, during which an excited female fan threw her bra on stage. After the show, I was informed by a friend who has seen HIM perform even more times than I, “oh, that ALWAYS happens.” Other than bra, we spotted a skateboard in the air.

The 21-song setlist was well built between heavier songs and ballads. In terms of ambiance, the lightshow was perfection. A dark stage was lit with dim straight lights, perhaps a nod to the title of their third studio album “Deep Shadows and Brilliant Highlights”. This setup was very much in line with band’s “let music talk” approach. HIM is well known for not doing anything particularly showy on stage. No flashy props, or even costume changes. Their performances are all about the music, and the natural charisma of lead singer Ville Valo, who appeared at home in the limelight in his signature look of black skinny jeans, sharp black blazer and beanie. Though the rest of the band played their instruments perfectly to the note, the spotlight is Ville’s.

That said, there was a certain dramatic element in the performance throughout. At the end of “Gone with the Sin”, Ville dropped the mike and walked off the stage without a word. The show stopped for a good while, after which Ville returned, composure intact, and dryly noted that there were “some spirits in the house”. It was a simultaneously beffudling and comical remark, which was soon forgotten when the band jumped into “Soul on Fire” as though nothing had happened.

Again after the show I would be informed by another friend (who also has good amount of HIM concerts under her belt) that Ville did the same thing while performing at Tuska Festival this summer. Was it a rehearsed act or real drama? Ville likes to leave things like this a mystery.

“Killing Loneliness” seemed a big hit in the US judging by the crowd’s response. The audience also agreed on “Bleed Well” from the Venus Doom album: many left for a bathroom or bar break. Either they didn’t like that song, or had read the setlist online and realized that some of the best was yet to come. The last leg of the show was a parade of well-loved HIM tracks:  “Join Me in Death”, “It’s All Tears (Drown in This Love)”, “In Joy and Sorrow”, “Right Here in My Arms” and “Funeral of Hearts”. At this point I started to get emotional. I will miss them.

The encore consisted of two songs. Coming as no surprise to those familiar with the band, one was a cover of Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell”.  Though it may seem an odd choice, HIM plays this song at nearly every show, and it’s always a strong performance. The band jumped into it with enthusiasm and verve, sticking close to the original but channeling their own energy through each note. I even saw some phone free hands in the air!

“When Love and Death Embrace”, HIM’s first single taken from their very first album, was the very last song the band played in North America. The song took me back to 1998, and it brought on some flashbacks. Though I never cared that much about the song, I guess hearing something you’ve heard for 20 years and realizing this will be the last time to hear it live brings emotions to the surface. I embraced the finale. It was the best choice for closing the show.

Farewell HIM. You remain one of the most important Finnish rock bands of all time. I respect the band’s decision to move on. What’s next, Ville?

 

By: Meeri Koskialho (story) and Alex Markwith (edit)

One Comment

  1. Wonderful review! It made me nostalgic…..eventhough it was only 2 weeks ago!!!!

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