Review: Ville Valo – Royal Albert Hall, London

All good things must come to an end.

OK, that might sound just a liiiitle bit overdramatic, seeing as it’s not actually the last show that former H.I.M. frontman Ville Valo will ever do (or at least we hope not) but rather it’s the last show of his Neon Noir album cycle. First set into motion a mere 16 months ago back in January 2023, Neon Noir is a continuation, as well as a reinvention, of the sound that helped popularise him. Fusing together gothic metal with gorgeous synths, it practically creates a brand-new style of metal. Since its release, VV has played countless venues and festivals all around the world, bringing his brand of love metal back to his thousands of devotees, who have sorely missed seeing his face after the breakup of H.I.M. on New Year’s Eve, 2017. And frankly, there isn’t a better place to wrap up the era than in London. And what’s more, wrapping it up in one of the most legendary venues of them all.

If ever there was a venue fit for His Infernal Majesty himself, it would undoubtedly be the prestigious Royal Albert Hall. There’s just something about this venue that fits the gothic aesthetic of VV’s music perfectly; it’s rich and luxurious with its charm, yet somewhat curious and vintage with its decor, a perfect mix for tonight’s show. Upon entering the floor of the arena, everyone can see the stage heavily lit in a foggy pink daze, with the iconic Heartagram that everyone knows and loves blending into the shadows. It’s such a simplistic yet powerful design, and it fits right in on the bestowed stage. After a while, the very same pink lights slowly dim into darkness – the show is about to begin, one last time.

The intricate synths of the album’s interlude, Zener Solitaire, play out over the hall as the Heartagram lights up in bright pink. Immediately, everyone’s cameras are out, taking videos in the hopes that they capture the moment Ville comes into view as he takes to the stage. And when he does, the venue erupts in deafening screams and emotional cheers, as he takes to the microphone dressed in all black, complete with his signature beret and all. It’s a stunning sight seeing everyone practically bow down to the Finnish icon as if he were a holy deity. But then again, to some, he very much is just that! The title track is the first song he plays alongside his incredible backing band, and the crowd wastes no time in joining him, swaying to the melodies and repeating the words back to the stage. Ville can hypnotise the audience with the utmost of ease, often by doing nothing at all besides singing – everyone bounces around to the anthemic Echolocate Your Love, everyone sings their hearts out to Run Away from the Sun, and everyone sways to and fro for the dreamy ballad that is Heartful of Ghosts.

But it’s not just tracks from Neon Noir that only get played tonight; of course Ville brought out the very best H.I.M. tracks too! In fact, the setlist rather nicely rotated itself between the two, in that after a VV song was played, a H.I.M. song followed immediately afterward. And, obviously, each one gets a massive reaction. The Royal Albert Hall was treated to such classic tracks as The Funeral of Hearts, Buried Alive by Love, The Kiss of Dawn, and so much more. Couples around me held each other close and tight as Ville crooned over tracks such as Join Me in Death and Right Here In My Arms; proof that “love metal” is the correct term for the band’s music! He remains largely silent during every interval until the end of Poison Girl, where he lifts the mic to his lips, beams a smile, and says “Thank you so very, very much” as the lights dim.

The encore then came around in what felt like the blink of an eye – everyone was so captivated and entranced by Ville and his lyricism that no one realised a whole hour of music had passed! In Trenodia gets a big singalong, with everyone joining in for the refrain of “We are high on the dying sun.” It’s also worth noting that after all of these years, Ville’s vocal range is still absolutely stunning; his low baritone notes on songs such as Gone With the Sin are still as clear and perfect as they were 25 years ago when the song was originally put down to tape. And then, unfortunately, the last song of the night came around; H.I.M.’s hauntingly beautiful When Love and Death Embrace. It’s a track that, on the surface, seems very simple in its lyricism, but somehow transitions into so much more when it’s paired with its gorgeous melody. It’s safe to say that there wasn’t a dry eye in the house when the song ended (including mine, I’ll admit it) as everyone filed out into the dark, on their way home after such a magical and enchanting night of music.

The looming question on everybody’s lips now is “What happens next?” – and quite frankly, who knows? No one can ever really be sure when it comes to Ville, but it’s clear to say that whatever does come next, everyone will be ready for it. Tonight sees the end of one of the most thrilling and enjoyable album cycles in a long while; one that fans will surely miss. If you were there in London last Friday, or at any of his appearances over the past year and a half, you get to hold the power of saying “Yes, I was there” – living with the memories, smiles, and the occasional mascara-stained tears. It may be over for now, but whenever a chapter ends, a new one begins.

Long live His Infernal Majesty.

Review – Joe Richardson

Ville Valo Social Media Links:
Website || Instagram || YouTube

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