Making their way back to New York were Finland's kings of gothic hard rock H.I.M., who jammed close to 4000 fans into the Hammerstein Ballroom for a sold out show. Sea of Tranquility's Ken Pierce and Pete Pardo were on hand and viewed the concert and the "sea of humanity" on the floor of the venue from the comfortable locale of the balcony, and bring their full report of the show. In addition, Ken also has a report from the Philadelphia show at the Electric Factory.
Read on for more!
Ken Pierce: This is will be the third visit of H.I.M. to the United States and the fourth time that I have been able to see them. The first time they arrived on our Shores the venue was smaller with about a 500 person capacity. At this show in the Bowery Ballroom the band performed for less than 400 people because due to tight venue restrictions anyone under the age of 18 was not getting in. H.I.M. has a large and young fan base so kids were crying and giving tickets away at the gate. It bothered me since the venue was not appearing to give refunds and I felt they could have used wristbands for the drinkers and solved the possible issues. The group returned a few months later for two sold-out nights at Irving Plaza and of these shows one was excellent while the other dreadful due to Ville consuming far too much alcohol. It was a blatant display of "Rock Star" syndrome at this one, and news of his antics had reached Finland within minutes of the shows completion. You have to love the Internet! The performance at the Hammerstein Ballroom would be special to be a part of as according to my research the venue holds about 3700 people and this show sold out in a couple of days. Not bad considering lack of radio play in the US on mainstream popular stations. The tour was part of "Viva La Bam's" show and was appropriately titled "Viva La Bands" and it would place H.I.M. with openers Skindred and Finch. I started out my trek to the show doing the usual networking and since I was only interested in H.I.M. I decided to pass on the openers. As I arrived I did not hear much in the way of praise towards these bands so I was glad about my decision to miss them.
It was incredible to find this venue sold out so quickly and it just proves to the level of appeal that H.I.M. is having on the people who have become fans. When the lights went down and the members of the group arrived on stage the response from the largely female audience was like a thunderstorm and the screams were impossible to count. H.I.M.'s lead singer Ville Vallo generates a response in this demographic in similar fashion to the way the Beatles did. He has a sense of "teen idol" charisma and while I am a fan I am still trying to figure out what exactly is bringing them to this conclusion. Maybe they are tired of being told what is popular and instead laying their own rules down. The group would be supporting their first official US Release entitled Dark Light and those that have wisely purchased this album will agree that it is a great blend of where the band has been and were they are going. Ville and Company have found their formula and are running with it into the future. I was very impressed with how good the new material went over in the live sense and with so much of it being easy to follow I made sure my colleague noticed the fact that every girl present in the venue was singing every word to every song. It's not a scene that one finds in many bands these days and it is something to behold in the case of H.I.M. and it most certainly merits citing. Opening with the lead off single from the new album "Rip Out The Wings Of A Butterfly" it was to be an hour and a half of solid Melodic Rock with a slightly Gothic edge. The whole band sounded great in this venue, but I felt the stage might have been a little too large for them and as a result members were pretty far apart. It's a group that holds an intimacy with the fan base and while the large room aspect is great a tremendous stage works against them. The lighting was dynamic and added to the overall mood that the group was setting tonight. When the song "Play Dead" was performed the manner of the lighting gave the illusion of Ville having wings.
The great show does not come without a little bit of criticism though. At the last few H.I.M. shows I have to say that Ville was very personal and interacted with the audience members that he could see from front stage. There was absolutely none of this going on tonight and he pretty much only made one comment while the rest of the night was song introductions and nothing more. It took a lot out of the show but of course in the other sense I would rather see an extra song or two performed rather than have H.I.M. kidding with the fans. The last critique was in the way the band ended the set in the manner they did. There was no show-stopping number or hit from their catalog instead they closed with their rendition of the Ramones "Poison Heart" and then did a slow jam during which members simply walked off the stage never to return. The band should have swapped numbers around and perhaps closed with "Your Sweet 666" or even "Join Me In Death". While everyone of course wanted more encores there was not a sense of leaving the crowd insane for more. It was just over and then the lights went on. Either way it was a great show and if you are still not aware of this band you should look at the reviews for some of the albums on these pages and make some investments on them. You will not be disappointed and will also find yourself caught in the spell like so many millions.
Pete Pardo: This was my first H.I.M. concert, and recently I've only just became familiar with the music of the band. So I was pretty surprised to see the masses of fans who crowded into the Hammerstein Ballroom for this show. Skipping the openers (of which there were many) in favor of some networking, chatting, and much beer drinking, I was more than ready when the band hit the stage to a huge reaction from the huge crowd, which was largely female but also quite a few men as well. It really is confusing as to why this band has such a large female following, as none of the band seems to be overly charismatic other than singer Ville Valo, plus they really have received very little media coverage here in the US. Regardless, there was a fevered pitch unlike I have seen in quite some time. With some push on MTV and rock radio, these guys could be really huge, especially due to their songs alone. Their set included many of their hits (well, their hits everywhere but here in the US) like "Join Me in Death", "Rip Out the Wings of a Butterfly" (my personal favorite off the new album, which has sure-fire gold all over it) and "Your Sweet 666", among many others. To describe the music of H.I.M. is a tad difficult, as they don't fit neatly into any one category, but thrown in plenty of pop, gothic, hard rock, metal, and some atmospheric prog, and you have a good idea of what to expect. This night, with the guitars and the keyboards cranked up a bit, the band had more of a hard rock/metal edge, but it all comes down to catchy melodies and dramatic instrumental passages, which they have plenty of. If I can find one fault with the evening, it was the fact that the band didn't seem to connect with the audience much, which was a shame as the crowd seemed to want it so bad. No matter, the 3500+ loved every minute of it, and musically the set was flawless. I'm certain the next time H.I.M. makes their way here, it will be an even bigger venue to an even larger crowd.
Electric Factory (Philadelphia, PA)
Ken Pierce: I was invited by Friends who had an extra ticket for the Philadelphia show and figured why not go one more time. My main reasoning was that I had never been to the Electric Factory and it sounded like a cool place to check out a show. The truth be told it was very much that and we even began the trek by sampling authentic Philly Cheese-Steak sandwiches. Proving to everyone that even the staunchest New Yorker can be an inexperienced tourist. Anyway let me get back to the show; the Electric Factory reminded me a lot of Irving Plaza in NYC with it being a mid-sized venue with a sizable upstairs and balconies to hang out on. It seemed to be able to hold the same amount of people as this venue (1100). The main and only difference is that the bar is upstairs and this keeps it an older crowd up there while the folks under 21 remain downstairs. At this show I was able to see the opening bands and this time around Fireball Ministry was added to the bill. I had seen this band perform with Dio and Anthrax not too long ago and at that show I hated them but in the context of a H.I.M. show they were dead-on and fit perfectly. This time around I was able to catch both Skindred and Finch and I have to say that I felt both bands were severely lacking. Skindred mixes Reggae with Heavy Metal and I found the result a terrible thing to behold. It seemed like some folks liked it but the larger amount of the crowd seemed to be in my corner on this. Finch came up immediately after and they were just as unimpressive with their music being a cacophony of screaming notes and equally annoying vocals. The odd part of Finch especially with the lead singer seeming to perform mainly to the stage amplifiers and the drum kit. If he came to the front stage for a second it would be an understatement. I remember asking the girls behind me if the band realized we were there as an audience. Maybe I am missing something in both bands but I am hard pressed to think so.
H.I.M. came up after a far too long break to allow for Bam Marguera to play an episode of his show and then do something on the stage. Yes this was his put together tour but it ran too long and ruined the overall vibe of what the audience was actually there to experience. When H.I.M. did come on it would be the exact same set as he did in New York with very little audience dialogue. The set list was exactly the same as it was and I feel that the guys made sure of a set amount of tunes for this run of shows. The sound of their delivery was as tight as that previous show and the audience just as receptive. This was a nice way to begin the holiday weekend.
Rip Out The Wings Of A Butterfly
Right Here In My Arms
Soul On Fire
Under The Rose
Join Me In Death
It's All Tears
Your Sweet 666
Behind The Crimson Door
Funeral Of Hearts
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