Barrowlands – 23/10

HIM’s stock isn’t what it was during the mid-2000s. Public endorsements from all-round pest Bam Margera have vanished, and emo isn’t vogue anymore. Still, the Heartagram logo is instantly recognisable even now, and at least three quarters of the crowd have it imprinted on their person somewhere this evening. Not only that, but the Barrowlands isn’t exactly a small venue – HIM must be doing something right, while similar bands from their era have disappeared into obscurity.

Before HIM, the black throng are mesmerised by Caspian. HIM have a certain talent for picking support bands better than them – at the height of their fame, they took UK doom merchants Anathema out on tour with them, exposing atmospheric prog to a sea of people who may never have discovered it otherwise. So it is a pleasant continuation of this that Caspian have a 45 minute slot, consisting of long post-rock dynamics, and no vocals whatsoever.

They are a stark contrast with the headliners. Where HIM excel at snappy, catchy tunes, Caspian demand attention and devotion. The lack of lyrics means all emotion has to come from their captivating and hypnotic soundscapes, which go from ethereal ambience to Cult of Luna-sized riffage. If such a thing as a frontman exists in a band with no vocals, Philip Jamieson is Caspian’s – a gargantuan presence standing centre stage while the band conduct a whirlwind of crescendos and tribal drumming around him. One of the year’s standout performances.

It’s a tough act to follow. Opener and recent single ‘All Lips Go Blue’ is followed by the double whammy of ‘Buried Alive by Love’ and ‘Rip Out the Wings of a Butterfly.’ The length of these three songs combined is about the length of one Caspian track. The crowd don’t take long to wake up after the dream-like state evoked by the support though, and by the screams that greet ‘Buried Alive by Love’ you’d be excused for mistaking it for 2004 again.

Most of the greatest hits are rolled out tonight (though ‘The Sacrament’s absence is felt), with ‘Join Me in Death’ and ‘Your Sweet Six Six Six’ sounding tighter than ever. Ville Valo sounds great for the abuse he’s put his throat through with all those cigarettes; his tamer lifestyle helping to hit the rare high notes in HIM’s catalogue. ‘Soul on Fire’ in particular benefits greatly.

Of the post-Dark Light-era tunes, ‘Passion’s Killing Floor’ from Venus Doom is as worthy of the “greatest hit” label as any of the classics are. ‘Tears on Tape’ from the recent album of the same name receives a reaction like an old favourite. HIM may have slipped off the radar when it comes to mainstream rock, but the devoted remain and they’re all here tonight.

‘Funeral of Hearts’ and ‘When Love and Death Embrace’ round off the show – everyone from teens to people who were there the first time around singing every word to “love metal” classics. A nostalgia trip or a band that continues to impress? Debatable, but to fill the Barrowlands and still have masses of black-clad and Heartagram-wearing fans, HIM are clearly continuing to do something right in 2013.

[Scott Wilson]

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