The Hives Make a Beautiful Mess

The HivesThe Hives with Sahara Hotnights at Metro

July 27, 2004, Chicago

By unanimous decision, the crowd at the packed Metro made Hives frontman Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist an honorary Chicagoan. We gave the Hives the key to the city. Well, Almqvist demanded it from us, and how could we say no? When the Hives tell you to cheer for them, you’ve got no choice but to give it up.

And so it went for the Hives’ entire hour-long set. I can’t imagine any other performer who could get away with repeatedly warbling “Chicago, my kind of town” to a completely made-up tune, but somehow Almqvist pulls it off. His shtick of forcing the audience to clap and scream would be repulsive coming from anyone less charming. Or probably from anyone who speaks English as their primary language. But the Hives so thoroughly enjoy having the crowd in the palm of their hands that the feeling becomes mutual. When Almqvist leans over the stage and cups his hand to his ear to let us know he can’t hear us, we want to make more noise. It pleases the Hives. And in return, the Hives please us.

Those five Swedes put out more energy than what would seem to be humanly possible. And the energy level never waned throughout the set. Even before the end of the first song, the minute-and-a-half-long “Abra Cadaver,” rhythm guitarist Vigilante Carlstroem appeared dangerously close to having a heart attack on stage. Lance Armstrong wouldn’t have the stamina to play a whole show with the Hives. They just never stopped.

And the entire crowd was into it. It was a strange group for an all-ages show. Lots of grown-ups with wristbands and beers, but a bunch of kids too. And I don’t mean college kids. I mean children. There with their parents. And how cool must that be for those parents? Of all the popular music out there right now, it must be a relief when your kid’s favorite band turns out to be a bunch of well-behaved Europeans in suits and Colonel Sanders ties. The most parentally offensive thing all night was when Howlin’ Pelle told us that the Hives were going to “kick your ass with rock and roll.” The moms in the balcony might have wanted them to turn down the volume a little, but other than that, it was an evening of good old-fashioned garage punk ass-kicking.

The set leaned heavily on the new album, Tyrannosaurus Hives, whose diverse sonic palette got smeared together in the live setting. That’s a fun and listenable album, moreso than Veni Vidi Vicious. While there are still plenty of sixties influences, the band broadens its sound with other styles. “Dead Quote Olympics” is pure 1977 Clash. “A Little More for You” combines a chirpy ska verse with a chorus straight out the Kiss songbook. And while on the album, “Diabolic Scheme” with its strings and moans ends up sounding more like Jon Spencer than Jay Hawkins, on stage as the only “slow” song, it lost some of its over-the-top pomposity. But it still sounds like the Blues Explosion. The rest of songs they played from the new album sounded fiercer and sloppier (in a good way) at the Metro than they sound on the album. And when they brought out their “smash hits” like “Main Offender” and “Hate to Say I Told You So,” the crowd went apeshit. It was a beautiful mess.

A lot of people blow off garage rock as a short-lived trend from 2001 whose day has come and gone. But if you actually look at the history, the style of music that started in 1965 when American teenagers attempted to copy the Beatles and the Stones has never gone away. It was resurrected in 1972 with the release of Nuggets and has carried on ever since in an intense, underground scene full of record collectors and bands who wear tricornered hats. The fact that a version of it bubbled over into the mainstream does not dilute the legitimacy of this style of music.

Sahara Hot Rocks

By Derek Phillips

I heard it all night long: they were so much better tonight than the last time I saw them. For a band on the road, that’s what it’s all about.

Sahara Hot Nights opened the night with a tight (but not too tight) set of unforgettable riffs and massive hooks. The executives navigating Evanesence and Avril Lavigne through Entertainment Tonight Teendom should take a look overseas. The gals from Sweden laid down the real deal of what so many “angry teen girls” are desperately striving to project, and they did it with sweat, screams, and solid rock.

Maria Andersson fronts the band with intensity and charm and focuses more on the rock than the show, a nice counter to the ultra hamming of the Hives’ leader who prances and spits like Mick Jagger cum Iggy Pop.

Positioned directly in front of the stage left speakers, my ears split with the first caterwaul chorus and haven’t recovered these 13 hours later. But it wasn’t toneless screeching, but memorable choruses and melodies screamed with rock and roll passion. It was tight riffs lifted from the Cars’ best early new wave tracks. It was smashing drums and cymbals and Michael Anthony bass. It was Sahara Hot Rock and Roll.

Previously on Glorious Noise: The Hives – But It’s Alright Now; Sahara Hotnights – Thank you sir, may I have another?.

10 thoughts on “The Hives Make a Beautiful Mess”

  1. Technically, the Hives’ rhythm guitarist goes by Vigilante Carlstroem. Chris Dangerous is the drummer.

    But I agree, I was amazed the big guy made it through the set.

  2. Dammit, I missed the Hives’ stop in DC this time around. Great review, though. I feel the need to find a good rock show quick to make up for it.

  3. this may be a little out of left field… with the kids, it sort of reminds me of when i was a kid and was into devo. think about it, they started out as art punks from akron, developed their sound and a following along the way, and then bust through to the mainstream. next thing you know there’s a bunch of rugrats showing up at the show. nice to see that the parents are bringing kids to rock shows.

  4. I dunno. I saw em at a festival after the release of Veni Vidi Vicious and the singer constantly appealing to the crowd to cheer and shit in shite broken english gets a bit wearing.

    I’m still not convinced that their genuine. It just sounds like they read how to be a band in a textbook.

    Theyre not fit to tie the libertines sandals.

    Just my 2c

  5. I think that’s the point of their act though, it’s supposed to be kind of a parody of the “we’re rock stars, you know you love us” attitude. I think Pete A. just enjoys playing with the audience. I don’t think it makes them less genuine, it’s just all in good fun.

  6. Some asshole marketing mastermind from Sweden has tonnes of copies.

    I think he’s also the guy who wrote those tunes for Britney.

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