The future is often painted as a town reserved for endings. In 2017, when news of a farewell tour broke, for HIM, a heart-rending ending ensued as Ville Valo departed gracefully from their Love Metal legacy. Jump forward to March 15, 2023, and Kentishtown played host to new beginnings. Outside the O2 Forum, fans gathered to celebrate Valo’s debut solo album, ‘Neon Noir’, on the final night of his sold-out U.K tour. A beginning that honoured the past, celebrated the present, and looked forward to what comes next.
Following a day of tube strikes, a surging mob of unified chaos rushed inside to escape the unforgiving winds and heavy rain screaming across their skin. Soon to be greeted by Opening act, Kaelan Mikla. The Icelandic trio as compelling as they are eccentric. Violent synths melodiously manoeuvring around mechanical, four-note bass lines were brought to life by singer Laufey Soffía. Her ethereal vocals intimately entwined with her fairy-in-Gothic lace aesthetic that captured the attention of the room. Kaelan Mikla making a lasting impression that carried conversation throughout the evening.
When the house lights are killed, the venue is engulfed in haunting emptiness. Strands of pink and purple begin illuminating the stage. A bright, cold heartagram appears from the darkness. Contemporarily accentuated by a VV at its core; like a lighthouse beacon it cascades across the audience. Ville Valo appears alongside his bandmates, the reception is akin to a hero’s welcome. Delivering an holistic set that spans the entirety of his career.
“Echolocate Your Love” winds wonderfully with “Funeral of Hearts”, as do classics such as “Buried Alive By Love” into “In Trenodia.” Whether songs are new or veteran, the interchangeable sequencing of the setlist presents them all as hymns of courage and consolation. Evident not only in the choir that the audience becomes, but in how Valo offers the songs over to them. An agent of change, Valo proves malleable, no longer bound in stone. Exuding a sense that nothing is precious, yet everything is. A juxtaposed harmony that sits beautifully in decades old songs like “Join Me in Death” as well as recent hits found in “Run Away From The Sun.” As the night ends, Valo quietly, and discreetly, retreats to the darkness. Leaving the mythology on stage behind him.
As the audience pours out of the venue, back into the dampened streets, Ville Valo’s presence is everywhere. Heartagram tattoos brand skin, some updated with the VV banner. A plethora of knee-length, black jackets compliment a hint of eyeliner deepening the eyes of thousands that separate into the night. Some echoing the unrepeatable experience that took place moments earlier. Valo’s words, songs and lyrics continuing to serve as a propulsive force in the lives and hearts of many. Songs that speak to those who found their way back to him. Though, if you were to ask Valo, he might suggest that we have it wrong. That it was he that found his way back to us. And we are all the richer for it.