“As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a Hives concertgoer.” — Me
This show was a long time coming for me. The Hives are a band that only puts out an album every four or five years and lives an ocean away, so I knew my chances of seeing this legendary live act were few. I jumped on my chance to see the Hives June 30, even though it required me driving five hours north to Chicago.
The Vic Theater was halfway full when me and my buddies arrived, right as openers Flesh Light (horrible name, by the way) were kicking the night off. Hives frontman Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist’s face was peering at us from from the backdrop from the start of the show, with his puppeteering fingers extended and teasing us while we waited patiently through the opening acts. Flesh Light are a Texas trio, featuring a Rickenbacker bass and Flying V guitar, and a chick drummer. Sorry, these are the things that stuck out to me about the band. Oh, and they all took turns singing lead, which I dig. They were full of energy, I’ll give them that, but not much else stuck out to me. Young punks playing young-punk music.
Next to take the stage were even more young punks, this time an L.A. quartet calling themselves Fidlar, who thankfully perked me back up immediately. According to their Facebook bio, “FIDLAR are slackers at heart. The only thing they really care about is skateboarding,” but I would like to contest that. These skater dudes DO care. They care deeply. Just because they care deeply about weed, cheap beer, getting laid and not getting a “real” job, does that mean they don’t care? Who are you to say what things people may or may not hold dear to their heart? Their energetic frontman had a smile on his face the whole set, and his guitar said “burritos” written in tape. He would fall down after finishing a chorus, just splatting to the floor and strumming wildly. They had tons of gang vocals that were simple enough for the crowd to sing along to by the last chorus of the song. There was something very Wavves about them: Lo-fi hipster-punk with tons of reverb and the obvious link in lyrical themes, though these guys like to curse a lot more. Some prime lyrical examples would be “I drink cheap beer / So what / Fuck you!” from a tune I assume is called “Cheap Beer” and “I don’t care about you / Fuck you!” from a song probably called either “I Don’t Care About You” or “Fuck You.” These guys were super fun and got us all riled up and ready for the Hives.
The Hives’ crew ninjas stealthily tuned the instruments and prepped the stage by attaching ropes from giant Pelle’s equally giant fingers to the backs of the amps, giving the illusion that he is, quite literally, pulling the strings in this band. The lights dimmed, with the exception of a spotlight on the drumkit. Chris Dangerous appears, flips his tuxedo tails and sits on his throne. He starts slamming the toms and snare in a very Hive-ish beat. Fitting. Dr. Matt Destruction strolls out next and starts destroying the bass. Not literally, dum dum! Then guitarists Vigilante Carlstroem and Nicholaus Arson come out and dig into their six-strings as what started as a simple beat morphs into the opening track to perfect 10 album Lex Hives, “Come On!”, and Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist finally appears to the thunderous applause he deserves and demands.
They tore into a ferocious set, playing a good smattering of tunes from 2000’s Veni Vedi Vicious, 2004’s ;Tyrannosaurus Hives and 2007’s The Black and White Album. Oddly absent, especially for such a high-adrenaline set, was any songs from their 1997 debut Barely Legal. They even played their cover of the Zero Boy’s “Civilization’s Dying” (which appeared on the Tarred and Feathered EP prior to Lex Hives) as a request from Flesh Light, who came out and sang backup. They played almost entirely fast and faster songs with the exception of “I Want More” off of the new album, which Pelle prepared us for by saying it’s their one slow track for the night. Coulda used some “Diabolic Scheme” action, but twas not to be.
They focused, rightly so, on Lex Hives, playing all but three songs from it, though “Without the Money” would have been pretty rad (though impossible without a keyboardist), and “Midnight Shifter,” possibly my favorite song on the record, was also absent. They rocked hard and they rocked tight, and were the most fun band visually that I have ever seen. Pelle was hilarious for the entirety of the set, demanding numerous things from the crowd between songs, and instructing us on how to answer his questions: with a “Yeah!,” “No!” or “The Hives!” He also informed us that he is the rightful heir to the Swedish crown, but turned it down to play rock and roll for us all. What a guy! During the songs, he was kicking, strutting and wiggling all over the stage, climbing on the PA speakers, bass cab and bass drum, hitting the cymbals with the mic and Dangerous’ spare sticks, falling into the crowd, and giving us the finger when we disobeyed. I laughed so hard I was nearly crying, all while working myself into a sweat and yelling myself hoarse. Pelle also did the bit mentioned by Rich Verducci in his Refused/The Hives/The Bronx live review, where he made the whole crowd sit down on the floor, only this time he was pretty damn successful. He shamed the stragglers to sit down by saying, “Here’s where you know that the people who are still standing are the people, you know, when you go to a party, the people that everybody hates. Either that, or they have a real bad case of hemorrhoids” to which the crowd erupted in laughter. The other Hives were no slouches though, with Nicholaus Arson’s creepy stares and guitar swings capturing a good bit of our attention, and Chris Dangerous’ chucking of sticks straight into the air and into the crowd after nearly half the songs. One small bit of their true personalities peeked through, if for only a brief moment, when Arson waved and blew a kiss to his wife and elementary-aged son up in the box.
The Swedes closed the set with “Tick Tick Boom,” freezing mid-song like statues for what seemed like a solid minute before Pelle’s eyes began to move, scanning the crowd, and the bridge kicked back in. They congratulated themselves and exited the stage.
Just a couple minutes later we heard the sound of a clapped beat through the PA, prompting the crowd to join in. The band reappeared and ran with the beat, launching into their new single “Go Right Ahead,” which rocked fantastically even without the saxes, helped by crew ninjas supplying tambourine and handclaps in the back. Then came the obvious “Hate to Say I Told You So,” to much crowd surging and yelling along. Pelle then informed us, “We would love to play for you all night, but the Chicago Fire Department has informed us that this building is too hot, because the band on stage is too hot. And if we play for more than three minutes, the building may burst into flames. But fuck that! We’re gonna play a song that’s four minutes and one second!” before busting into Lex Hives track “Patrolling Days” rather than a classic. Still rad.
I left extremely satisfied and am pretty sure I made my friends into even bigger Hives fans than they previously were. Although this is the last show on this leg of their American tour, be sure to make it to a show when they come back in the fall. Whether you’re superfan like me or not, this is a bucket list live band, people.
Try it Again
Take Back The Toys
Walk Idiot Walk
My Time Is Coming
No Pun Intended
Wait a Minute
These Spectacles Reveal The Nostalgics
I Want More
Die, All Right!
Civilzation’s Dying (The Zero Boys cover)
Won’t Be Long
Tick Tick Boom
Go Right Ahead
Hate to Say I Told You So