Hate to say I told you so, but the Hives still got it
Apparently the Hives never went away. When the Swedish five-piece first broke onto the scene as part of the so-called ‘garage rock revival’, it would have been easy to dismiss them as ephemeral scenesters; though sonically and sartorially sharp, they seemed nothing more than sharp-shooting proponents of both the moment and indie club dance floors around the globe.
How wrong that turned out to be. The Hives, without any sign of wear or tear, have not outgrown their scene, they’ve outlasted it. And over a decade later, their obvious zeal for playing live still prevails.
Thursday night at Vega, aside from the shade of guitarist Vigilante Carlstroem’s hair, the erosion of bassist Dr Matt Destruction’s fringe and, at last, some new material (indeed their latest album, June 2012’s Lex Hives, was their first in five years), this was very much the same fresh-faced band that barnstormed radio airwaves in 2000 with ‘Hate to Say I Told You So’.
Front man Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist, named like a bluesy gunslinger and dressed, as his band mates, in a black and white tuxedo with top hat, lept elastically onto the stage, the whites of his eyes big enough to be a sixth Hive.
Immediately they burst into several songs off Lex Hives. ‘Come On’ and ‘Take Back the Toys’ have the ratcheted rhythm and catchy pop hooks associated with the band.
“We have all of the answers, we do not question!” Blomqvist shrieked before ripping into ‘1,000 Answers’.
This was more of a show than a gig. Whilst the Hives lack variety, they have virility and magnetism to burn. The lead singer and his brother, guitarist Nicholaus Arson, spun and scissor-kicked their way about the stage, whilst the front man also twirled his microphone cable and climbed all over the drums. Throughout, the crowd was constantly involved and invoked. At the end, Blomqvist demanded they all crouch and when one older guy refused, it sparked a hilarious exchange between frontman and fan.
Naturally the likes of ‘Main Offender’ and ‘Walk Idiot Walk’ got an airing, before Blomqvist introduced ‘Hate to Say I Told You So’ by engaging in a pantomimic to and fro with the crowd by screeching that the band will burst into a classic. “Is it ‘Satisfaction’ by the Rolling Stones!?”… “No!” … “Is it ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’ by the Clash?” … “No!”
Then, when the four recognisable chords of their flagship hit rang out, a riot ensued.
The Hives, refreshingly, left no room for thinking. At worst, they were like some kind of pounding, street party that you’d thought died down only to start up again, and at best an irrepressible tour de force of punk-edged garage hits. A bit limited technically? Yes. Developed much since their debut? Not really. A bit one-dimensional even? Perhaps. But none of this matters, because the Hives deliver live, and you haven’t got a choice but to enjoy it.