The Hives make a good noise. They’re pretty damn exciting. They enjoyed a peak centred around the garage rock revival a decade ago along with The Strokes, The White Stripes and The Vines, and by the sound of their stuff, they were a group of normal Swedish dudes in pit-rot tees wedded to their guitars.
But there’s no pretence that The Hives aren’t all about the music, man. They wear their brattish hearts on their white tux sleeves, favouring the showy, ‘Phantom Of The Opera’ performance style of bands like Panic! At The Disco. They know their shortcomings and they celebrate them – “Our longest song is a massive four-and-a-half minutes!” – using them to carve a niche and put on epic, high-maintenance concerts.
The Hives’ set in Camden gives Lady GaGa’s Monster Ball Tour a run for its money. Sort of. There’s ten-foot LED lighting that takes the shape of the band’s name, an enormous puppeteer backdrop and a theatrical off-stage piano starter. It’s pretty dramatic. They’ve gone for an Abe Lincoln take on their trademark matchy-matchy suit-up style and after opening with ‘Come On!’ from their new album ‘Lex Hives’, they immediately set to work, making the crowd bow to them.
The drummer does stick acrobatics, the lead guitarist flirts with the front row and rocks out, and a ninja on maracas flits about – but it is sheer arrogance from frontman Pelle Almqvist that threads the show all together. He uses stop-start applause and phrases like “Everybody must do what I say for the duration of the concert,” “What I say goes,” and “Silence is my enemy” to keep the audience on their knees. There is no let-up with the power-trip theme and it’s so engrained, so seamless, it’s almost sadomasochistic – and everybody’s buying it. Still, you can’t help feeling a little smug when, amidst all the mic spinning and jumping off stuff, Almqvist throws his hat in the air and fails to catch it. Ha.
The crowd pleasers (‘Hate To Say I Told You So’, ‘Main Offender’, ‘Walk Idiot Walk’) lack a little of the vocal growl they had back in the day, and their new stuff relies a little heavily on shouty repetition (‘Come On!’, ‘Wait A Minute’) while ‘I Want More’ is a watery combination of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’ and ‘I Love Rock ’N’ Roll’. Their music’s no longer as raw as 2000’s epic ‘Veni Vidi Vicious' – obviously – neither are they. But this band makes up for every little drop that cruel time has snatched from them with utterly boundless energy.
Words by Mia Bleach
Photos by Rachel Lipsitz