The year was 2002. My brother had just returned from a trip to our local Target and like most Target trips, he returned with a new CD. He popped it in the six disc changer (hold for oohs and aahs), and a distinctive fuzzy guitar came over the speakers. The song was “Hate to Say I Told You So”, and the band was none other than Sweden’s own the Hives.
As soon as I heard the Hives I instantly fell in love. I began following their career starting with their next release “Tyrannosaurus Hives”, followed by the “Black and White” album and finally their latest release “Lex Hives.” It’s hard to believe that it’s been seven years since “Lex Hives” was released! I’ve seen some grumblings online that a new album is in the works, and the Hives played a couple new tracks during their show in Lawrence (5/22).
It wasn’t until the Hives toured in support of “Lex Hives” that I got the chance to see them in 2012 at the Vic Theatre in Chicago. It was an eight hour drive from Omaha, but it was totally worth it! Seeing the Hives for the first time, I was completely in awe of the raw power and wild charisma the band brought to the stage. Well let me tell you, this time around was no different.
Before I get into the show I’d like to give a shout out to Midwest Music Foundation. This group is a non-profit that helps Midwest musicians who are un-insured with their medical bills. I met someone who works with them at the show while waiting to get in. It looks like they are doing some pretty great stuff. Give their page a look.
On to the tunes! So the first band of the night Bleached was a lot of fun. They had a sound reminiscent of the bangles and the Go-Gos with a touch of Joan Jet. Their guitarist had several solos and the vocals were very uplifting and bright. They got the crowd smiling, a great way to start the show.
Next was the first half of the “Scream Team”, Swedish rockers the Refused. Over the years I’ve seen the Refused show up on several “Best rock albums” and “Most influential artists” lists. By about the third or fourth song I could see why the Refused keeps making it on these lists. Not only did the band totally rock, but two of their songs sounded nearly identical to the Used. Obviously the Refused’s music came out first, so the Used was heavily influenced and possibly even copped the Refused’s style. I’m sure many other bands cite the Refused as a major influence.
During the Refused, the crowd was absolutely going off! From the first note the pit started opening up and people started crowd surfing over the barricade. Luckily, I have yet to be kicked in the head by a crowd surfer (knock on wood). About halfway through the set, the band pulled out a cover of “Reining Blood”, and it was harrrrd! The Refused saved their big hit “New Noise” for last and the crowd went wild. You could barely hear Refused singer Dennis over the crowd just screaming their hearts out.
After a break, the Hives ninjas started to set up the band’s gear. I’ve seen a lot of roadies over the years, but only the Hives have ninja roadies!
The lights went down it was time for the garage rock masters and rulers of the universe, the Hives!!!
Stepping out in matching black pants with white suit jackets and bow ties, the Hives were dressed to kill. The band kicked off the set with “Come On” the opening track from their latest release “Lex Hives.” There’s only three words in the whole song, yet somehow the Hives are able to take that and turn it into an absolute banger!
Going back to 2004’s “Tyrannosaurus Hives”, the Hives broke out “Walk Idiot Walk.” Howlin Pelle stepped from the stage on to the front of the barricade and walked along with the crowd holding him up. Being the ultimate showman, Pelle was constantly interacting with the crowd.
Whether he was running onto the floor with security frantically trailing behind holding his mic cord, or climbing on top of P.A. stacks, Pelle tried to give away every ounce of energy he had!
The rest of the band was also on fire. Guitarist Nicholaus Arson banged his head and shook like a mad man. He too climbed on the P.A. stacks and jumped into the crowd.
The Hives just oozed showmanship! I’ve seen interviews where the band has mentioned that once the show starts they don’t like any silence. So if they aren’t playing a song, Pelle is interacting with the crowd with a huge arsenal of jokes and quips. The last time I saw the Hives, Pelle told the crowd he was the official King of Sweden. “They said Pelle we need our King!” “I said no! I play rock and roll music!” Pelle also went on about how he has the greatest gig ever. “I don’t give a sh@t about holidays, I play rock and roll, every day is Saturday to me.”
The thing I really love about Pelle is that while he is the ultimate rockstar, he doesn’t come off as elitist or egotistical. He makes you feel like you’re in on the act, like you’re at the party too.
One of my favorite parts was when Pelle dispatched a heckler in the audience. Apparently someone had grown tired of Pelle’s standup and motioned to “start playing the next song.” Pelle said “Oh this man has a suggestion for how we should run our show, let’s see what he has to say.” As soon as the guy started talking the Hives cranked up the guitar and drums completely drowning out anything the heckler had to say. The crowd laughed and cheered, and Pelle had the biggest smile.
Even though the set felt a little shorter than the last time I saw them, it was still fantastic. The Hives remain one of the greatest bands I’ve ever seen! Had they not played the Lawrence date I would have driven to Chicago in a heartbeat. Do yourself a favor. If the Hives play the U.S. again soon (hopefully to promote a new album) make the drive, grab a flight, row a boat, do whatever you have to do to catch this band! You won’t regret it.
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