The Hives are not a band about which one can waffle. No one ever reacts to the Hives with a shrug or a “meh.” They are a band who demands total commitment of themselves, and, once you’ve seen them live, they will earn the same from you. Their recent show at Seattle’s Showbox proved to be one of the most exciting, entertaining performances to ever grace the rock n’ roll stage.
Knowing that people want to love the band they came to see, the Hives initiate the relationship with confidence: the meticulously coordinated outfits, the spotless white band gear, the glaring neon sign behind the stage reminding us who we are here for; it tells us there’s nothing casual about this affair. Once onstage, they earn our love the old-fashioned way: with pure energy, larger-than-life personality and tremendously tight playing.
Musically, the Hives are a well-oiled Swedish machine. Kicking off with their latest single “Walk Idiot Walk,” the band blasted through an hour of shout-along garage-punk anthems like “Main Offender,” “Die, All Right!,” “Dead Quote Olympics” and “Hate to Say I Told You So”—offering up a relatively equal mix of tracks from their 2000 breakthrough Veni Vidi Vicious and their acclaimed new album Tyrannosaurus Hives. “Diabolic Scheme” in particular was masterful. Bathed in red light, tempo slowed; they squawked and lurched through the sinister-sounding “ballad” before freezing in mid-motion for a solid 30 seconds. Bold and ridiculous, it was quintessential Hives. Meanwhile the sweat-soaked audience released its collective aggression with unbridled enthusiasm—an act of unusual intimacy and athleticism given the limited range of motion afforded by the sardine-like bodily compression that kept up throughout the show. We jumped, shoved, pumped fists and readily responded to every move lead singer Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist threw at us.
He is the star attraction, after all. A practiced student of showmanship, Almqvist enthralls with charisma that is at once charming, impudent and sexy. He’s mastered mimicry of great rock frontmen’s moves—Mick Jagger, Roger Daltrey, Rod Stewart—which, when combined with high-octane punk and confined to a club stage that is “right in your face,” makes for an immensely thrilling combination. Given to bold declarations such as, “The Hives have been rehearsing and recording a new album for the good of all mankind,” Almqvist also maintains sharp-dressed decorum at all times. When one grabby fan unfastened his bowtie, he immediately retreated upstage to fix it. And despite the entire band’s black suits being visibly saturated, he proudly announced, “When it gets hot in the club, the Hives don’t say ‘Take it off,’ the Hives say ‘Bring it on!’”
Like the crowd, the rest of the band was right with Almqvist. Bassist Dr. Matt Destruction along with dueling guitarists Nicholaus Arson and Vigilante Carlstroem mugged, winced and whirled in all the right places, while drummer Chris Dangerous maintained disquieting intensity, capped by a long moment at the end of the show to finish his cigarette, center stage, after the rest of the band made their exit. Each Hive has a clear role to play; apparently he’s the strong, silent one.
It’s this well-executed showmanship that landed the Hives on the cover of SPIN magazine with the banner “Best Live Band on the Planet.” Contest that claim if you wish, but one thing is certain, when they take the stage, the Hives will rock your world.
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