Ville Valo is definitely one of Finland’s most famous and internationally successful musicians of all time. Ville’s former band, HIM, sold more than ten million records worldwide. The band was known for its clear sound, which combined more melodic and melancholic elements with heavier influences. This created a unique HIM sound that made the band very successful. As the band’s popularity began to wane, HIM quit activities in 2017 after a more than 20 year career. In autumn 2018, Valo joined forces with the Finnish schlager group Agents. The band released their very successful self-titled debut in early 2019 and toured around Finland for the rest of the year. In 2020, Valo started a solo career under the name VV and released an EP called GOTHICA FENNICA VOL. 1. Valo’s full-length debut album, NEON NOIR, was finally released in January 2023. It was followed by these three sold-out shows at Club Tavastia, which were also Ville Valo’s, or VV’s, first official appearances as a solo artist.
Tavastia had a warm and expectant atmosphere before the gig. These gigs and Ville’s return to his musical roots have been awaited for a long time, and it was remarkable that there were also a lot of fans from abroad in the audience. After a short wait, the gig was about to start. The new, cool-looking VV logo, which looks like a cleverly executed variant of the old HIM “Heartagram” logo, was reflected in pink against a black background. And as the “Zener Solitaire” intro played, the black-clad band took the stage. “Echolocate Your Love” from the new album, released earlier as a single, opened the show, and the whole thing took off. The song, which received a lot of radio airplay, was well received, and the mood didn’t drop when the band next played the old HIM classic “The Funeral of Hearts.” Next, we heard the new album title track, “Neon Noir,” followed by more of HIM in the form of “Right Here In My Arms.”
The band waded through the whole set with the same concept, alternating between a solo song and an old HIM song, and it worked really well. For this reason, there were no dull moments at the gig, and the audience remained alert the entire time. Of course, it was great to hear those old classics live again after a long time, but this gig would undoubtedly have worked even with a little less HIM investment because so many of NEON NOIR’s songs work really well live. Among them, let’s highlight the two previously mentioned songs, as well as “Love Letting” and “Salute the Sanguine.”
Ville Valo’s new band consists of well-known long-time professional musicians who are familiar from the background bands of many top Finnish artists. They played through the show with clinical and flawlessness, but at the same time, the band remained distant. On stage, you didn’t really see any communication between Ville and the band, or between the band and the audience. In the future, it is worth investing a little in that matter. The lack of a keyboard player in the line-up was also confusing, as the keyboards were now heard from the backing tapes. It would be nice to have a change in that matter.
Ville Valo was just his “old self” on stage. He has always been a very low-key performer who doesn’t talk too much on stage between songs. The man mainly focuses on singing throughout the gig, but that has always been Ville’s thing in some way. Just be your charismatic, slightly shy, and sensitive self, and let the music speak for you. Singing with the agents has clearly been good for Ville’s interpretation, which was now stronger and more expressive in a live situation than before. Visually, the gig was nicely structured, and the lights and colors seen at Tavastia worked brilliantly. But how that package might work outside at a festival remains to be seen. Regardless of its minor flaws, the VV gig was entertaining and well-executed entertainment from start to finish.
The fans certainly got and experienced what they had come to get from these gigs. Only time will tell how successful Ville Valo’s solo career will be in the long run, but it is good to continue from here toward the future world tour.
Zener Solitaire (intro)
Echolocate Your Love
The Funeral of Hearts (HIM cover)
Right Here in My Arms (HIM cover)
Buried Alive by Love (HIM cover)
Wings of a Butterfly (HIM cover)
Heartful of Ghosts
Join Me in Death (HIM cover)
The Forever Lost
The Kiss of Dawn (HIM cover)
Run Away From the Sun
When Love and Death Embrace (HIM cover)
Soul on Fire (HIM cover)
Salute the Sanguine
Poison Girl (HIM cover)
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