Gig Review

Birmingham, Academy
19th March 2010
HIM                                    Dommin
Photo Of Dommin © Copyright Robert LawrenceFreezing rain and the perils of rush-hour, city centre traffic did little to dampen the excitement of the die-hard fans waiting outside the O2 Academy in Birmingham to see Finnish rockers HIM on Friday night. Having staggered wearily through two below-par albums, namely Dark Light (2005) and Venus Doom (2007), the band have placed the allegiance of their fans under considerable strain recently and the release of their seventh studio album Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice in February this year and subsequent tour would prove to be do-or-die for many a HIM devotee. And yet they waited faithfully outside the venue like a mini, black clad army huddled together under umbrellas to give the band one more chance to prove their undying loyalty.

The support band was an inspired choice and pitched perfectly at the average HIM fan. I was unfamiliar with Los Angeles-based goth rockers Dommin before hearing their set, but they are certainly one to watch out for. Their material was very accessible and there is a richness to Gary Numan-eque vocalist Kristofer Dommin’s voice that is almost mesmerising. A cover of 80s hit I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight was an immediate icebreaker and the bouncy rhythms of Dark Holiday had the crowd clapping along within mere seconds (I believe that I witnessed an ordinarily aloof security guard bobbing along with that one!). The incidental music played between songs interrupted the flow a little too much for my liking but they were clearly intent on creating a romantic atmosphere and endeared themselves with the many women in the venue by sporadically throwing roses into the crowd.

Photo Of Him © Copyright Robert LawrenceUnfortunately judging by the number of women pressed feverishly against the barrier and the piercing screams that filled the air each time a figure stirred in the shadows off-stage, even Kew gardens could not have provided an adequate supply of roses for the predominantly female crowd. HIM clearly vehemently retain their reputation of being a lady-killer outfit and this showed from the very second that the lights went down. The stage rapidly descended into a Santa’s grotto with balloons, bras and all kind of paraphernalia winging its way stagewards throughout the night and it was difficult to hear vocalist Ville Valo’s rumbling chatter over the myriad of marriage proposals being screamed at the poor Finn. Fortunately Ville was in a playful mood and locked horns with the crowd with his tongue firmly in his cheek, babbling nonsense in his typically delightful way and at one point stopping to recite an extract from Tim Burton's The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories . He is always at his best when he has a swagger and mischievousness to his demeanour and I must confess that even I felt my oestrogen levels surge on those low baritone notes.

Photo Of Him © Copyright Robert LawrenceMost bands with a large back catalogue have difficulty selecting songs to accompany their singles, but HIM fared pretty well with the set list. There were the usual crowd pleasers scattered throughout the set for the die-hard fans such as Right Here In My Arms, Join Me, Poison Girl, Wicked Game, Your Sweet 666, Buried Alive By Love and The Funeral of Hearts. Soul On Fire was a last minute replacement for The Sacrament in the encore, which suggested that Ville was in the mood to rock-out rather than fawn over a ballad. Wings of a Butterfly was the only appearance from Dark Light and Killing Loneliness surprisingly didn’t make the cut. Kiss of Dawn, the only offering from Venus Doom, was a mood killer and even Ville looked bored as he painfully plodded through the lyrics to the final chorus. Maybe Passion’s Killing Floor or Bleed Well would have been a better choice. Both Wings and Kiss seemed little more than an obligatory nod to two albums that had been greeted with general apathy from the fans. Thankfully, material from the new album Screamworks punctuated the set list and picked up the pace considerably. Like St Valentine is a fantastic opener and it is rapidly becoming my favourite track on the album (but why so far down the track listing, guys? Surely this is an album headliner?). Heartkiller, Katherine Wheel and Love The Hardest Way will hopefully become stalwarts of the live set and Scared to Death and Disarm Me lulled everyone into a meditative state when the barrier burn got too intense. One voice in the crowd commented that Screamworks is the album that Dark Light should have been and I genuinely hope that it signals the band’s resurrection from the increasingly stifling quagmire of Ville’s personal life over the past few years and heralds a return to the dark, heavy riff driven Love Metal days. Hallelujah, at last!

Photo Of Him © Copyright Robert LawrenceUnfortunately I momentarily forgot my HIM stage orientation and positioned myself at the front ‘stage-left’ barrier side which resulted in spending the entire gig listening to the back of Ville’s beanie (note to HIM noobs: Ville always sings to ‘stage right’) and catching only glimpses of Linde’s pained concentration during the awesome guitar solos. There were minor sound issues throughout the set and twice during the final encore (The Funeral of Hearts) Ville stopped singing to berate the sound tech and insist that the hi-hat audio problems were ironed out. It was heartening to see that he cared so much about our enjoyment of the sound quality, especially since it was the last song of the night and the crowd were clearly oblivious to any technical hitches. And it’s also heartening to realise that Ville was sober enough to notice the problem. It wasn’t that long ago that he could barely remember the song lyrics by the end of a set let alone pay attention to the sound levels. However, although the vocalist may well be winning the battle with on-stage sobriety, I couldn’t help noticing that his usual lean physique looked a little more emaciated than usual. I can’t be the only person in the venue who wanted to nip out and buy him a pizza…?

Photo Of Him © Copyright Robert LawrenceBut, my sense of direction and Ville’s own techy criticisms aside, the gig was everything that I had hoped it would be. Yes, it was the same, carbon-copy set that we are subjected to on every HIM tour, but what’s wrong with that? The fans clearly still enjoy making the pilgrimage out to see the live shows, the new material is still flowing and I suspect that most women in the audience would still book their ticket if Ville Valo appeared on stage with a ventriloquism act. Complacency is never a good thing, but why change when you have found a winning formula? Keep the albums coming guys, stay healthy and we’ll see you from the pit the next time round…

Oh and one more thing. I was slightly puzzled by the fact that When Love and Death Embrace appeared as ‘Mubbel’ on the set-list. Is this some kind of weird acronym or a Finnish translation of the song title? Curiouser and curiouser….

Dommin 4/5
HIM 5/5

Review By Helen Ingram
Photos By Robert Lawrence


Ville Valo
Mikko "Linde" Lindström
Mikko "Migé" Paananen
Janne "Burton" Puurtinen
Mika "Gas Lipstick" Karppinen


Kristofer Dommin
Billy James
Cameron Morris

 Band Related Links
Him Myspace
Dommin Myspace
 Review Score Code
- Top Cheese
- Brilliant
- Pretty damn good
- Ok I guess
- What Was That?