Sweden is known more for IKEA and Absolut Vodka than they are for producing rock stars, but The Hives don’t seem particularly phased by that. Over the last nineteen years, they’ve released five albums and toured the world numerous times all in their quest to show every man, woman, and child alive that rock isn’t dead. After leaving me breathless at Coachella 2012, The Hives guaranteed my attendance at one of their future solo shows, and my opportunity to see them again came sooner than I anticipated. Following the June 2012 release of their newest album, Lex Hives, The Hives announced a corresponding set of tour dates that included a stop at The Wiltern. Obviously this had to have been some sort of divine sign. Or just coincidence. One or the other.
The evening kicked off with a set from local band Luis and the Wildfires. With their unique take on an old-school sound, the band channeled the magic of good ol’ rock and roll from the fifties and sixties, and vocalist/guitarist Luis Arriaga’s distinct warble meshed perfectly with his band’s feel-good melodies.
Following Luis and the Wildfires were local punk rockers Fidlar. Although they seemed a little nervous at times on stage (let’s face it, who wouldn’t be?), the band delivered a thrash-worthy performance and almost certainly picked up some new fans that night.
After the lights in The Wiltern dimmed amidst a chorus of crazed fangirl screams, they emerged donning tuxedos and top hats. The one, the only, The Hives.
The show started off with the appropriately titled opener, “Come On!” From there, The Hives launched into one of my personal favorite rock anthems, “Try It Again,” while Angelenos unapologetically slammed into each other in the pit. The band had the audience roaring through “Take Back The Toys” and “1000 Answers,” both from their newest release. And for fans less familiar with their newer material, the group brought it back to 2004’s Tyrannosaurus Hives with “Walk Idiot Walk” during which their LA fans echoed the trademark “The truth is, baby, it’s a lie-ie-ie-ie” lyric sung by lead vocalist Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist.
All this in the first five songs of their set.
I could harp on and on about how I screamed like my 16-year-old-self when I heard the opening riff of “Main Offender” or how I idiotically jumped around and sang along to “Won’t Be Long” or how not a single fuck was given about how hoarse my voice was by the time “Hate To Say I Told You So” was played, but honestly, I think I’ve made my glowing sentiments about the show abundantly clear.
One key element to every fantastic show The Hives have put on is the bombastic swagger of frontman Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist. Almqvist uses the pause between songs to address his adoring audience, typically with endearingly hilarious proclamations of his own awesomeness (“Do you mind if we continue to rock your ass to smithereens?”) or total acknowledgement of his unabashed arrogance (“I’m an asshole. I’m a dick. It’s all true.”). My favorite Pelle-ism of the night, however, was toward the end of first set when he made mention of other bands who criticize Los Angeles’ concert crowds for being generally unenthusiastic and unwilling to scream. His response to them? “Your band fucking sucks!”
The Hives saved their best for the final track of their encore, “Tick Tick Boom.” Reminiscent of their Coachella finale, the band froze prior to the bridge that leads into the final chorus. Following several moments of stillness, Pelle commanded his audience to squat on the ground, jumped into the crowd, and launched them back upwards in a frenzy when the music resumed. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: no band embodies the label of “consummate performers” quite like The Hives.
It’s impossible for anyone who has watched The Hives perform live not to notice how insanely energetic their sets are, both musically and physically. Their sets are rife with lots of kicking, jumping, equipment climbing, and stage-left-to-stage-right strutting. This, my friends, is everything a live rock show should be.
From the start of their set to their encore, The Hives banged out their tried-and-true recipe of high-energy, infectiously danceable garage rock. Quite simply, if you weren’t at The Wiltern on Friday, September 14, you were missing out.
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