Concert Review: The Hives at Irving Plaza: 3/24/2013
LADIES! GENTLEMEN! LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!! NOW IS THE TIME OF THE SHOW WHEN YOU WILL DO WHATEVER I SAY!!!
Certain bands just know how to put on a live show. I’m not talking about crazy costume changes and stage props and psychedelic lighting, though those can be really good too. I’m talking about a good old-fashioned rock show where the band’s music and stage presence are all they need to make the floor shake. The Vaccines do it with indie rock. Matt & Kim do it with indie pop. And last night I saw the Hives do it with punk rock.
From the moment the 5-piece group blasted onstage in their tuxedos with “Come On!“, their opening song off their newest album Lex Hives, until they left the stage over an hour later to a thundering ovation, the fun never stopped. Drummer Chris Dangerous rocked so hard he broke a drumstick only 2 or 3 songs into the set. Nicholaus Arson, the Hives wild-eyed crazy lead guitarist, managed to accidentally break a guitar. And like he always does, lead singer Pelle Almqvist ran the show like a conductor leading a punk rock circus with his dancing and kicking and exhorting the crowd throughout the night.
Almqvist takes his job of revving up the crowd very seriously – there are no dull moments at a Hives show. With their short songs and his propensity to talk (actually, shout), it seemed that half the show was banter between Almqvist and the crowd. There were so many great moments that it’s impossible to recount them. One particularly fun one was when he went through the band’s history (formed in 1992, first EP Barely Legal in 1997 …) and asked the crowd, album by album, when they became fans of the Hives. Many claimed it was from Barely Legal, many others (including me) cheered for the first full album, 2000’s Veni Vidi Vicious, and the cheers gradually declined until just a small few claimed to jump on the bandwagon with 2012’s Lex Hives. Without a pause, Almqvist told the crowd, “man, you are some old motherf**kers.” Then there were the band member introductions, where Almqvist stayed true to his immodest self by saying (and I’m paraphrasing) “last of course, a man that needs no introduction, the reason you’re all here, the wonderful Holwin’ Pelle Almqvist!” There were the matching tuxedos, the ninja stage crew, the backup singers in wigs and polka dot tops, Almqvist and Arson each entering the crowd, and of course the neverending dance/mosh pit that was highly encouraged. As Almqvist claimed, this show was “a 125 out of 10.”
The craziest moment of the night, though, came during the incredible 3-song encore. First, I must say that it’s hard to imagine a better encore than “Go Right Ahead,” “Midnight Shifter” (a personal favorite), and “Tick Tick Boom.” After freezing in place in mid-song during the closer, and then doing the aforementioned band introductions, Almqvist told the crowd to do whatever he said. And what he said was to sit down on the floor! There were a few stragglers in the crowd who were unceremoniously called out by Almqvist and shamed into sitting along with the rest of us. He then proceeded to surf the seated crowd on his back, mic in hand, until he reached roughly the center of the floor.
Lying on his back across outstretched hands he asked the band to start playing again and Almqvist started singing. Finally, he had the crowd jump up to its feet – him still riding the wave – on cue with an eruption of “Tick Tick Boom!” Almqvist promised not to stop until “this mecca of punk rock” exploded, and I believe right then it did. Not ones to send the crowd home any less than deliriously happy, they didn’t leave the stage right away. The showmen tossed their sticks, picks and even an article of clothing into the crowd, then stuck around slapping hands and taking many bows.
There are bands that make great music and there are bands that put on great live shows. I have long felt that the Hives were an extremely underrated band that deserves more due from the punk and indie community, but it may be the fact that they straddle both worlds which actually holds back their popularity (or it may just be that they’re often confused with the inferior band the Vines). That said, no one who attends one of their live shows would ever underrate them again. In a review of a 2012 Hives show in Stockholm (concurrent with the release of Lex Hives), NME gave the band the ultimate back-handed compliment, saying that all of their songs have and always will sound the same, “However, such is The Hives’ prowess as a live band they could make an entire set of LMFAO covers compulsive viewing”, then adding, “A decade after being everyone’s New Favourite Band they’re still one to cherish, for the dumb, brattish fun of it alone.” Last night was a different venue but the same story.