Growing up in Illinois during the height of the Chicago Bulls era, stories often floated around of a legendary, untamed and unknown street basketball player who was as good if not better than the one and only Michael Jordan. Supposedly Jordan himself had seen this monster among men and marveled at his raw skills, thereby awing and frightening fans such as myself. We had all come to believe that Jordan was the best living player on the planet and we were content with this comfortable fact of life.
It is often hypothesized that the Hives are currently the Michael Jordan of live rock shows and if this is true, then we should immediately form a multi-national search party to root out the "street-baller" band that's blowing the doors off of some local underground concert hall, bar, or basement. If there's a better band, I want to see them now. I suppose--like anything--it is possible that this powerful mystery band exists and I hope and prey they sign a deal and usher in the kind of planetary unity only Wyld Stallyns could provide... but more than likely we'll never see a single guitar pick from them, just as I've never seen that street baller who could beat M.J. one on one. Instead, we must carry on and count our blessings in what we still have: 6 NBA Championships and the best walking, jumping, kicking, spitting rock band in the solar system.
I've experienced the Hives in person once before during their previous tour and that show lived up to the hype. I've seen the Tussle at Brussles DVD, and it proved that they could kick nut on their continent as well as our own. As I approached the Avalon on November 7, I was eager to see if the Swedes could deliver once again, thereby qualifying as "The Best" through scientific method. They did, and therefore they do.
The Hives may be the best comedy show around and the best comedy band since the Beastie Boys. They don't tell jokes; their performance is the joke. It's so funny it's good. It's so good, it's great. It's so great it's hilarious. They performed a show as close to parody as one can get without looking so foolish that you laugh at--not with--them. They have a distinct comedic voice which creates a wavelength for the audience to tune in. This may be the X-Factor for their success in live shows but not on an album. Live Hives performances like these very nearly make their recorded material obsolete and unnecessary. They're like a harder rocking Grateful Dead sans patchouli.
All night long, Howlin' Pelle strut about the stage blowing kisses, commanding the audience to clap, shut up, and to give over a portion of the greater Los Angeles area to the Hives threatening to "burn down another part of it" if they didn't. Chris Dangerous obsessively threw drum sticks in the air while Nicalus Arson chicken walked, swinging his guitar to become some sort of punk epileptic clown. It's all hilarious because they seem to take it so seriously. The Hives may be clowns, but they're not fools. They are sincere in their artificiality and sincere artificiality is still sincere. They know what we desire--deep down--from a rock show. They know that these deep down desires are kind of goofy. We rock fans want our lead singers cocky and unapologetic. We want our rock loud. We want our bass player drenched in so much sweat by the third song that we fear he may suffer from a crippling disease. Their comedy becomes heightened when the audience realizes that not only is the show funny with the matching jackets, crests, winks and kicks, but the show is great, too.
Mixing their set list with old Barely Legal cuts ("Here We Go Again" sporting particular hotness), the Hives saved some of their best performance for their newer tracks, such as the fantastic "Tick Tick Boom." Taken on their own, these songs may seem like semi-standard riff rock. But for an hour and a half on Wednesday night, these songs did not remain semi-standard anything. They didn't even remain songs. They became explosions. They became assaults. The Avalon did not hear the Hives play music. Anyone can play music. The Avalon witnessed the Hives rock. In the hands of the Hives, mere songs elevated to a terrifying glory full of rapturous screams, chants and fist-pumps... everything the inner 15-year-old who keeps all of us as rock fan wants in a rock show. By the time the band hit their stride around the seventh song pounding out the trifecta of "Try Again," "Die! All Right" and "Hate To Say I Told You So," the audience had melted into drooling, pubescent fools. Troubles were forgotten. Focus was discovered. We needed to start a band, learn our songs and play them as loud as we could. That would finally show Dad. Yeah! We were right all along!
As always, the Hives were out and out crowd pleasers in the best ways possible. They played their songs close to the record, but they didn't stick so rigidly to those songs that they couldn't mess around with pregnant pauses or just plain mess with the audience or each other. Their previous tour started with a shotgun blast and never let up. This time around, they opened with a mid-tempo (for them) "Bigger Hole To Fill" luring the crowd into a false sense of security. Initially I was leery of this because I fear change. But then I sensed the hips of everyone around me moving instinctually, along with mine. The Hives built their show like a hurricane, beginning as a tropical storm, upgrading to a "Category 6," then tearing through the surrounding innocents as they struck the shore of our brains, giving the audience enough of the storm's eye to catch a breath before sweeping everything and everyone into the heavens as they remounted another blast.
I feel sorry for people incapable of enjoying a show like this and I pity anyone who misses this band. At the bottom of this review you'll find the obligatory website and MySpace link. If you are a fan of rock 'n' roll then you have no excuses for not signing up to their mailing list. Unless you're borrowing your friend's computer and internet capabilities, you can certainly string together or borrow the twenty bucks it would cost to make your life better by purchasing a ticket and seeing the Hives when they come around. Michael Jordan is retired for good this time. He will never return and you have missed him. Don't miss this, too.
1) Bigger Hole To Fill
2) The Hives-Declare Gurerre Nucleaire
3) A Little More For Little You
4) Walk Idiot Walk
5) Won't Be Long (First time live)
6) No Pun Intended
7) Try It Again
8) Die! Alright!
9) Hate To Say I Told You So
10) Here We Go Again
11) A.K.A. I.D.I.O.T.
12) Diabolic Scheme
13) You Dress Up For Armageddon
14) Two-Timing Touch and Broken Bones
15) Tick Tick Boom
16) Main Offender
17) Supply and Demand
18) You Got It All... Wrong