Live review: VV, London Royal Albert Hall

His Infernal Majesty Ville Valo brings the curtain down on VV at London’s most beautiful venue…

Live review: VV, London Royal Albert Hall
Nick Ruskell
Marilena Vlachopoulou

Aurora Borealis? Pff. There’s only one dark light that matters tonight, localised entirely within the Royal Albert Hall. To round off his post-HIM VV era on a suitably grand and impressive note, Ville Valo has taken over London’s finest concert hall. Looking out at the splendour of the venue’s stalls and boxes, and unintentionally but appropriately backdropped by its hulking organ, the name under which he works may have changed, but Ville remains the unimpeachable lord of darkness and gothic romance.

Unimpeachable, but not unchallenged. Enter Zetra. The mysterious Brit synth-goth duo have a similar mastery of the velvet shadows from which the headliner (who hand-picked them for this whole tour) draws his power. Now with added sparkly bits on their robes, along with the usual corpsepaint and ritual vibes, their Type O Human League hymns sit comfortably at home in this dramatic space. They’re joined by Svalbard’s Serena Cherry for epic recent single Starfall, taken from their forthcoming debut full-length, and as things reach a close, this fanciest bit of London is firmly under their spell.

Coming from an entirely different, less space-age place, but cut from a similarly dark cloth, Faroese artist Eivør brings an older vibe to proceedings. In a similar gang to Myrkur or Wardruna, there’s a funnelling of ancient folk horror through a rock set-up, heavy on atmosphere. It may be entirely unfamiliar to most here, but it still works its magic, particularly when her giant drum draws folks in with its insistent but beguiling beat.

Compared to such things, Ville Valo is a rather understated performer. Accoutrements to his outfit go as far as a flatcap and a smile, there’s no production beyond a (very cool) glowing heartagram/VV logo, and says almost nothing to the audience. But, just as Kerrang! noted when HIM first appeared in this city 24 years ago, he is a man built of charisma. So much so that, even in a set where for 90 minutes all he really does is play, with no real grandstanding or ‘look at me’ acting out, he remains The Love Metal God.

It’s also why, over half a decade since HIM bowed out, he is still here: Ville is simply too good at this to not do it for very long. Last year’s Neon Noir solo album was a flex of all his skills with effortlessly cool metal romance and lusty rock’n’roll, and cuts from it like the enormous Echolocate Your Love and Run Away From The Sun sound incredible tonight. Not only better than a lot of HIM’s later material, but pressed against hits like Right Here In My Arms – thrown out a mere two songs in in a genius piece of front-loading – they don’t pale.

That said, it’s obviously the gems from his previous band that land best. The sing-alongs to the gentler Gone With The Sin, The Funeral Of Hearts and Join Me In Death are as loud and heartfelt as the reactions to Buried Alive By Love, Killing Loneliness and Wings Of A Butterfly are joyous and uninhibited.

So, that’s the VV era done. Ville has already made noises that there will be more music in future, while making no promises on what or when any of it will be. As he’s already proven, though, he power of nights like this is simply too much to keep him in the shadows forever.

Check out more:

Now read these

The best of Kerrang! delivered straight to your inbox three times a week. What are you waiting for?