Photos By Chris Chen, Words By Ross Bonaime
When the garage rock and appearance of the “The” bands arrived in the early 2000s, there were four bands that became the face of this revival: The Strokes, The White Stripes, The Vines and The Hives. As these bands evolved over the years following their massive rise to popularity, at least for me, their evolution took them farther away from what made them great. The Strokes were harshly criticized for being too similar on Room On Fire, their follow-up to Is This It, then went too far away from their original sound that is continually diminishing returns. The White Stripes kept adding new instruments and tweaking elements that made the simplicity of their original records a thing of the past. The Vines’ Nirvana-lite schtick grew old too quickly, and until Wikipedia told me that they’re still releasing albums, I just assumed that Craig Nicholls had either A) died under some bridge in Australia or B) grew out his hair and decided to change his name to Kristen Stewart.
However The Hives largely stayed the same. After the success of Veni Vidi Vicious, they released three more albums that stayed true to the spirit of The Hives, yet I had sort of fallen away from this band I used to adore. Sure, every new album featured some amazingly fun new song, but aside from hearing them in some new commercial, my interest in The Hives had definitely waned.
But a decade after I first adored The Hives, I finally got to see them live at the 9:30 Club, and not only do I have no idea why I had lost interest, I hope The Hives never change.
Even before The Hives took the stage, it was clearly going to be awesome. Their roadies, dressed up like ninjas, set up the stage, which included a backdrop of lead singer Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist holding marionette strings that stretched across the stage. Within seconds of The Hives taking the stage, it was clear this image made perfect sense, as Almqvist had the audience in the palm of his hands.
The stage turned black as a terribly off-key version of “Also sprach Zarathustra” as The Hives took to the stage in matchin mariachi outfits and immediately started with “Come On!,” then going directly into “Main Offender.” The front of the audience went insane with the band’s appearance, boosted by Almqvist and Nichoulas Arson’s wild characteristics.
“I can’t believe our luck!” stated Almqvist at the end of “Main Offender.” “I can’t believe y’all luck either!,” which was much more accurate. Their set consisted half of new songs from last year’s Lex Hives album, with the other half coming from earlier releases, yet when integrated, it’s hard to tell which is which. Throughout the set of sixteen songs, the crowd and The Hives, especially Almqvist, never let up. As soon as it seemed like things might die down, they throw in a favorite like “Walk Idiot Walk” or “Die, All Right!” that boosts things back up to 11.
A few times throughout the night, Almqvist took breaks to question the audience, first asking for requests that led to them attempting a Slayer cover, which was nothing more than a few slamming drum hits from Chris Dangerous. Almqvist asked if the president had come, since they gave him a +1, then went on to ask if Brody and Carrie from Homeland were there and Ian MacKaye, who according to The Hives’ Facebook, actually was in attendance.
The next-to-last song of their set “Abra Cadaver” had to be restarted since Almqvist couldn’t remember the words, leading him to ask the crowd, who hadn’t even cared if he fucked up. Their final song was as Almqvist put it, a classic, like “Catch-22” or “Catcher in the Rye,” which of course meant it was time for “Hate To Say I Told You So.” Even thirteen years after the song came out, it’s still a goddamn blast.
Their encore started with “Tick Tick Boom,” which had Almqvist request the entire audience sit on the floor for a sitting crowd surf. Almqvist got in the middle of the crowd, then commanded everyone stand up, leading him above the crowd to surf to the front.
Even the usual band introduction was hilarious and amazing, as Almqvist introduced each member with great facts, such as Nicholaus Arson was made of twigs and brought to life by the god Ra, or that Dr. Matt Destruction’s replacement bassist is still the second bass player in the world, or that Chris Dangerous is made up of the DNA of a combination of people like Clark Gable, Sylvester Stallone and Caesar.
After “Insane” and “Patrolling Days,” The Hives left the stage, but the audience still wanted more, anxiously waiting around to see if there could be another song. Almqvist is one of the greatest lead singers in modern music, equally hilarious and exciting to watch. He mentioned that they have played 9:30 Club two years in a row and that they should make it a yearly tradition, or maybe more often, leading them to say that we always want more and we want it now.
Well, I want more live Hives and I want it now.