The Hives have some kind of nerve. Two years ago, they burst onto the US rock scene with a two-year-old album, an imaginary Svengali named Randy Fitzsimmons, some of the baddest, most balls-out rock songs anyone had heard in years, and the cock-suredness of Mick Jagger, Iggy Pop and Robert Plant all rolled into one. They destroy the Vines at the VMA's where someone had the bright idea to pair the two bands up for a battle of the bands of sorts. Even a proper stage, lighting rig and smoke machine weren't enough to give the Vines a chance in hell at outplaying the Hives (who played simply under the house lights). When it looked like the sky was the limit, the Swedish five-piece signed to Warner Bros. and then Universal, all while their first label Burning Heart still claimed to have rights to the Hive's next album. Now, after two years in utter isolation, The Hives come back with a new album that's barely a half hour long and they expect us to fall right back in love with them? Well, guess what? That's exactly what has happened.
Last night The Hives steam rolled through Chicago, complete with huge red neon "The Hives" sign as a back drop and, of course, their black and white suit ensemble. It was an early show, so all the kiddies could come and, as would be expected, it was a sell out. Regardless of their two years away from our country, fans were out en force to witness the rock explosion that is a Hives live show. As the band took the stage, frontman Howlin' Pelle Almqvist was the last to enter, inviting an enormous cheer from the Metro crowd. From the first licks of "Abra Cadaver," The Hives showed why Spin Magazine called them the "best live band on the planet." They are the complete package. They are one of the tightest live bands around hands down. They play with more energy and heart than 99.9% of bands around and are clearly having the time of their lives while on stage. They have cute matching outfits and witty names like Dr. Matt Destruction, Vigilante Carlstroem, Chris Danerous and Nicholaus Arson. But what takes them to that upper echelon of rock glory is the BEST front man of the new millennium, Howlin' Pelle Almqvist.
Two years ago, this kid was everything a front man should be, and the couple of years spent in the studio, or in seclusion (or wherever the hell they were), has only given him time to hone his skills. While the band is kicking out the jams, Pelle is all energy. He tosses the mic stand around like it's his bitch, spins the mic around like a sling shot, struts, rock jumps, scissor kicks off the bass drum, spits, screams, winks, smiles, crawls on the floor, climbs into the crowd and points to audience members that get his attention - all the while, never missing a line or a note. It is in between songs, his on stage banter if you will, that makes him great. Sure he's cocky, but he's charming. He says shit like, "how many people here want to make Howlin' Pelle an honorary Chiacgoan? How many of you think I should get the key to city?," to which the entire place screams "YEAH!!!." He told us that the Hives were our favorite band. He told us that we were lucky for getting tickets to their show. And you know what? We WERE lucky and after last night, The Hives WERE everyone's favorite band. The Hives know how good they are and, in true rock star form, they take every opportunity to make sure you know how good they are too.
The Hives ran through just about every song in their arsenal during the hour-long set, including the new single "Walk, Idiot Walk" as well as old "smash hits" (as Pelle called them) like "Die, All Right!," "Main Offender," "Hate To Say I Told You So," and even "A.K.A. I-D-I-O-T" from their debut, Barely Legal. It's safe to say that not a song went by where Pelle didn't solicit cheers from the crowd. He's constantly egging the fans on, and as it turns out, the fans want nothing more than for someone to push them past the hipster kid head-nod-in-approval-rock-club-dace and into an all out frenzy.
Ever since their performance at SXSW this year (the first time I actually got to see them in person), I have been blabbing to everyone I know that the Hives are the greatest rock band I have seen in the last five years. It's safe to say they lived up to even my inflated expectations. DO NOT MISS THIS BAND.