It’s always strange to attend a ‘farewell’ tour, especially in a city so renowned for its conveyor belt style of artist stage-time. However, to see a band which has amassed such an almost cult type of following, announce that they will no longer be seen here again in the near-future is an unusual, and almost foreign, concept. Especially in Manchester.
Their world tour ‘Bang & Whimper’ commemorated 26 years of the band’s work. It was a time for fans to appreciate and look back on number of the achievements that not only make them one of the most significant bands in their genre, but also in their home country, Finland. Unlike a regular concert, the atmosphere was unusually and beautifully celebratory. It’s no surprise at all to see that the Academy is completely sold out with fans all seemingly wearing Ville Valo’s iconic ‘heartagram’ symbol. And now, as part of their 15 country visit, it was Manchester’s time to unfortunately say farewell.
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The only support for HIM were American rock & rollers The Biters. Sometimes it’s easy to find that support bands aren’t given enough time to really portray themselves in the time they were allotted. The Biters, fortunately, didn’t have to deal with this problem, because their set was 40 minutes long. Unfortunately, however, their stereotypically 80’s style, rock sound and aggression wasn’t anything new, and it left their material sounding very same-y and unoriginal.
A mixture of power rock songs and ballads (one was about his dog) sandwiched unbearable fan interactions. Key moments include: one unfortunate fan being pointed out for clapping unusually, the lead singer commenting how he felt ill and to “never eat food after a homeless man” and to cap it off “I love how Manchester girls squeal.” Not even the impressive ‘stunt’ of turning a setlist into a paper aeroplane before throwing it to the intended member of the audience could salvage that absolute trainwreck.
Each member of HIM then entered a darkened stage to a rapturous applause you’d normally expect when a band finish their set. Starting with the racy intro to Buried Alive By Love it was evident that the quietness of Ville’s voice was going to be a prominent problem. It was a mix-match on the tempo of each song through the course of their setlist. The only pattern found was the focus seemed to be more on their older material, with only 4 out of their 21 songs being from the band’s past 10 years of work.
Softer vocal songs like The Sacrament, Heartache Every Moment, Gone With The Sin and Right Here In My Arms were vocally clean and easy to hear. It became a problem when their heavier material drowned out his vocals with throbbing bass and drums. All that being said, there was nothing the band could have really done wrong tonight. In such bittersweet conditions, it was obvious and understandable that people would focus on the metaphorical ‘sweeter’, and rightly so. Aforementioned, tonight was a celebration of the band.
Ville Valo’s voice is a versatile instrument in its own right. Songs like Gone With The Sin and Killing Loneliness are a prime example of his range and ability as the huge difference between bass and tenor is something to be admired. HIM’s music is recognisable for almost, in a sense, playing around his vocal sound, but unfortunately I don’t think that translated as ideally as intended tonight. Fortunately, however, there were various few seconds of sweet vocal clarity dotted in songs that gave me hope.
The more the 2-song encore gets thought about, the cleverer it seems to be. A speedier rendition of Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell was played just before the sombre, slow and situationally apt When Love And Death Embrace. The juxtaposition of the two summing up perfectly the versatility of the band and what fans will miss the most. Raw energy and melodic harmonies.