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VILLE VALO, Dark Water: The Metro Theatre, Sydney, 16/03/24

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Words by Matt New

Pix by Angie New Photography

There are diehard fans, and then there are Ville Valo fans.

The overwhelming support and adoration that the former H.I.M. frontman has received over the past almost three decades is nothing short of remarkable. His influence is incredible and unassuming, as droves of his dedicated fans patiently waited for the doors to open at the Metro Theatre. Since the band’s split in 2017, Ville has embarked on a solo journey that has seen him release an EP entitled Gothica Fennica Vol. 1 in 2020. The album for this current tour, Neon Noir, was released back in 2023.

Ville’s return to Australia had been highly anticipated and Sydney was ready!

Opening for Ville Valo was the Melbourne-based Synthwave band Dark Water. For the evening, they performed as a duo, with Jack Siren on vocals and guitars, and Dettie Sebastian on bass. Their music was simple instrumentally, featuring catchy songs and occasional hooks. However, the noticeable lack of stage presence and energy was evident. Not having their drummer present was a major contributing factor to this issue, but they did their best with the resources they had. It was challenging to fully engage with them, as their backing track, which provided most of the sonic experience, often overshadowed them physically. Despite these challenges, they still received a positive reception from a few audience members at the Metro Theatre. It appears that Dark Water has plenty of room for improvement, as they are currently missing some key elements needed to become a successful live act.

Washed in a luminous neon pink glow, Ville Valo and his band, lead guitarist Mikko Virta, rhythm guitarist Sampo Sundström, bassist Juho Vehmanen, and drummer Risto Rikal, made their way onto the stage to a deafening reception of squeals, which travelled all the way to the back of the venue. The outfit as a collective is a well-oiled machine, providing Ville with a stable harmonic base for him to shine vocally. Ville immediately had the crowd in the palm of his hand as he crooned through tracks such as Poison Girl, Neon Noir, and The Funeral of Hearts at the beginning of the set. A stylish rock icon, Ville bears much resemblance to some of the greats, most notably David Bowie, with whom he shares a very similar demeanour and vocal style at times.

It was immediately apparent that Ville’s performance was all about business, as he refrained from any banter between songs. This allowed for a great variety of H.I.M. and Ville Valo songs to flow perfectly, and at times, you could not tell which were which. Many of his new songs from the Neon Noir album could easily be compared to some of the best H.I.M. songs ever released. Generally, most solo artists who break away from the bands that made them household names really struggle to deliver at the same level as their previous projects. Not Ville Valo, as he showcases that he is more than just a talented singer but an accomplished songwriter as well.

The connection between Ville, his music, and his audience can only be described as hypnotic. You are instantly transported into a state of relaxation, paralyzed by the music and Ville’s stage presence. Moving through the crowd seemed like a challenging feat as everyone was fixated on the stage, deeply lost in the intricately beautiful melodies they were experiencing. Another endearing factor about Ville Valo and his music is the sincere and positive messages of love, heartache, and hope. Although his songs are shrouded by dark overtones, the uplifting nature of his music is only paralleled by very few bands who actually intend on meaning it.

His set had no shortage of H.I.M. classics, including Buried Alive by Love, Right Here In My Arms, and When Love and Death Embrace. These songs showcased his long tenure at the top with his beloved Finnish Love-Metal outfit. After a brief reprieve, Ville and his minstrels returned for a four-song encore, including In Trenodia and Vertigo Eyes from Neon Noir, and Wings of a Butterfly and Soul On Fire from the H.I.M. catalog. It was a very cathartic and engaging experience, well worth the ten-year wait to see him perform again in Australia. We hope it’s not too long between drinks when we see him again. Big thanks to The Phoenix for continually bringing quality acts to Australian shores!

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