VV: The Royal Albert Hall, London (10/05/24)

VV: The Royal Albert Hall, London (10/05/24)

20th May 2024 0 By Gavin Griffiths

For those of you living in hermitage, back in 2023 former HIM frontman Ville Valo released his critically acclaimed debut solo album “Neon Noir”, under the new moniker of VV. With its early January release, it managed to break into the UK vinyl charts and endure a full year of various artists dropping solid albums across the board, to accumulate several spots in many high-profile “Best Of The Year” lists, not fading into niche obscurity or falling to any mainstream popularity contests. Ville Valo has ALWAYS been a powerful, emotive songwriter and performer, and his first foray into a true solo career only cemented that.  

Yes, he has the tenured background of HIM’s established catalog, but this was a career and creative challenge for the veteran vocalist and “Love Metal” legend. And frankly, he owned it. March of last year saw him bring “Neon Noir” to the UK for the first time with his new backing band, and this reviewer was blessed to see him at not one, but four out of five shows, and it was spectacular each and every time. (Apart from Manchester and a slight case of food poisoning, but I digress). It had been six long years since the separation of HIM, and it was good to have him back, and things were all right in the world. 

On Friday, May 10th, 2024, this reviewer finishes his own chapter, by catching Ville Valo live for the 10th time, as VV wraps up the entire “Neon Noir” album cycle with a truly special show at London’s Royal Albert Hall. Here’s what happens, when you sell out arguably London’s fanciest venue, with a room full of emotional goths… 

It’s an absolutely beautiful day in the capital, and frankly far too hot for goths realistically, but it doesn’t stop a queue forming outside the Albert Hall very early on. Remember folks, keep your goths hydrated in direct sunlight, we may turn to dust. I mean we’re whiter than the sun cream we put on, have pity! It’s a surreal image, as the very regal-looking building is swarmed with denim, velvet, fishnets, black eyeliner, and Heartagram’s, but this sort of irony perfectly sums up his infernal majesty.

Photography: James Oakley

Doors open at 6:30, and after security checks, lovely purple wristbands, navigating the stairwells and many levels of the deceptively large venue to the bar, we prepare ourselves for opening support act ZETRA [5]. The London-based duo have been summed up as a gothic PET SHOP BOYS, or, TYPE-O-NEGATIVE had they been a synth-pop band, and despite those artists being poles apart on the musical spectrum, both descriptions do sort of make sense. With nothing more than a backing track, one guitar and a keyboard rig, and some dancers, I guess, side-stage, flowing equally artistically and awkwardly, they present their post-punk creativity to the early punters. 

Opening their set with “Sacrifice” they blend crunching riffs with synths and light airy vocals, and the Pet Shop Boys reference makes more sense than it should on this evidence. This isn’t a knock, it’s a wonderfully catchy little mishmash of aesthetics sonically, yet visually it’s like, they’d burn down your church but still drop some change in the donation box and leave an apology note. Strong Danhausen vibes; very nice…very evil.

Photography: James Oakley

The duo do entertain, and credit to them, their cover of “Beauty Has Her Way” from “The Lost Boys” soundtrack is delivered in such a mesmerizing fashion. The MUMMY CALLS track here hasn’t drastically changed; they retain the bubbly synth elements and soft vocals, but they’ve managed to render it a more haunting experience. It is severely lacking in a saxophone solo, however, and as beautiful as this arrangement it, it just isn’t as sexy as the original. I mean I doubt the duo, proudly donning corpse paint are going for sexy anyway, I mean, we’re not looking for soft-core tonight, are we? After a couple more tracks, and the dancers, looking like they were awkwardly trying to awaken Megalon from Seatopia, we finish up on “Call Of The Void”, and we round up act one with more dreary synth. Zetra looks striking, as a stage presence, that’s undeniable, but their image stands out more than their music, and while not unpleasant, it is sadly forgettable.


Next up we have EIVØR [5] and we kick off with a song from “God Of War” by the name of “Memories Of Mother” unless you’re into your PlayStation gaming, this will be lost on you. The Faroe Island native has a history of jazz, classical, and progressive folk influences, and has done a lot of scores as well as her own releases, which frankly seem to sum up tonight’s brief set. Her operatic performance and orchestral presentation really do set a mood, but is it the right mood? 

Photography: James Oakley

The track “The Last Kingdom” from the TV show of the same name has a very tribal, Tibetan vibe, bridging throat singing with sultry folkish tendencies, and while not understanding her, there is a hypnotic quality to her performance, she does leave you in a state of trance. While the lady can sing, and boy can she project her voice and hold her notes, a lot of this set seems to comprise of tribal chanting, noises, ritualistic elements, and a cult-like charm. She has a beautiful voice, but for the most part, she just warbles along, and despite the delicate nature of her performance, and the undeniable quality on display, it is sadly a little boring. She’s happy to be here, and the crowd receives her warmly as she thanks everyone in attendance, but she doesn’t incite excitement shall we say? It’s very niche. It’s very nice on the ears, but it’s very niche. Her elegance does fit the venue perfectly though I’ll give her that. In essence, what they have done, is taken the support from last year, KAELAN MIKLA, and divided them into two support artists aesthetically.


Finally, then, a little after 9pm and our friend David realises he’s spent over £40 on just two drinks, the giant Heartagram makes its ominous appearance centre stage, as the last-minute checks are conducted by the stagehands and sound techs, while a backdrop of post-punk audio keeps the crowd waiting in anticipation. When the lights go down, the crowd cheers almost devoutly, when the bright neon glow emits from the aforementioned Heartagram, as the instrumental piece “Zener Solitaire” amps up the crowd’s excitement, before the band, and of course, Ville Valo, hit the stage, as VV [10] emphatically open proceedings with “Neon Noir”. 

Over a year since its release, we are more than accustomed to it by now, and the title track is a great place to start, cementing that tonight is a celebration of this run, and its success. The crowd tonight is in fine form; singing every single word back to Ville and he’s very clearly having the time of his life, just as we are. It’s a venue he’s always dreamed of playing and performing at, it’s the last show, he is going out on a high and it’s visible in his cheekiest of smiles and genuinely joyful demeanor. 

 Just as he’s done for the entirety of the tour cycle, the setlist tonight is comprised of both VV material and a choice selection of HIM hits, and while the tracks are pretty much the same, the running order has been tinkered with a little, so it’s like putting your favorite playlist on shuffle. The same songs you know and love but in a fresh new order, as he fleets between the old and new material. 

The new tracks do go down a treat, there’s no denying that, but please do allow for nostalgia bias when the older HIM tracks get the biggest sing-alongs and receptions. Tracks like “Right Here In My Arms” and “(Rip Out) The Wings Of A Butterfly” have the catchiest of choruses that get everyone on their feet, including the surrounding seated sections. The doom-laden intensity of “Saturnine Saturnalia” stands toe-to-toe with cuts like “The Kiss Of Dawn”, allowing Ville to flex his baritone prowess. At the other end of the spectrum, mega-hits like “Join Me (In Death)” are complimented beautifully by their modern counterparts like “Heartful Of Ghosts”, which when played back-to-back highlight Ville’s penchant for lyrical romanticism over so many years, arguably just getting better each and every time. He’s aging like a fine, alcohol-free wine, if such a thing is possible.  

Photography: James Oakley

He doesn’t talk a lot between songs, he never really has done; he lets the music do the talking, and the backing band is the same, so when the band initially finishes up before the encore, it feels like a blink and you’ll miss it experience, such was the level of continuous happiness. The encore itself then, after a ravenous crowd pleads for more, is impressive in length, throwing another five tracks into the ethereal, almost dreamlike atmosphere filling the Albert Hall.


The crowd don’t let up though, still singing along with underappreciated new tracks like “In Trenodia” and “Baby Lacrimarium”, as well as hits like “Killing Loneliness”, before the night’s finale. Our vocal cords pushed to their limits by this point, the sweat is pouring but we couldn’t ask for a better climax, when Ville thanked everyone in attendance, everyone who’s supported the whole tour, the new album, and allowed him to this day, to continue to make dreams come true, and he is genuinely grateful, as they wind things down with THE most beautiful rendition of “When Love And Death Embrace”. The glitter ball dances around the venue like the starriest of night skies, as people use their phone torches like fireflies, as by chance, the Northern Lights illuminate the sky outside. It’s honestly magical, as though everything cumulated in this one special moment by fate. It’s legitimately emotional, as through teary eyes you see the appreciation from both the stage and the crowd, as Ville closes another chapter of his storied career, and he again, says goodbye to disappear into the darkness. 

We don’t know what he’ll do next, other than probably take a well-deserved break, but professionally, he’s proven that he can hold his own creatively outside of HIM, and “Neon Noir” silenced any doubters of that. HIM will always be a massive part of his life, there’s no denying that, and the connection will always be made. You’ll always get questions of reunions, but Ville works best when he doesn’t know he’s working. Just look at the “Gothica Fennica” EP…from a small 3-track surprise, we get nights like this in London. Let the man rest, let the man decide on his next move. In the meantime, we thank you, for letting us dance the neon noir with you one last time, as this moment will be trapped in ember in our memories and hearts for years to come. Kiitos. Kiitos todella paljon. Did anyone else pick up on the joke on the new VV shirt at merch? The Royal Albert Hall shirt had a Prince Albert piercing at the tip of the Heartagram…that tickled me. I bet Ville chuckled like a little kid coming up with that. Never change Ville…never change.

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