With support from the likes of up and coming funkpunk all-stars and labelmates The Bellrays, The Buff Medways (guitar and vocals courtesy of Billy Childish) and ’70s wannabes Soundtrack Of Our Lives, there’s no way you can mess up the warm up. After a hefty (almost) 30 minute wait, The Hives prove they could do this on their own. With their Stooges-meets-Link Wray sound assault there is no way you could deny these ten-year primed live-act veteran boys a pedestal.
When they were 16 years old they started a band. They swallowed every piece of rock ‘n’ roll that came their way in the unlikely location of small-town Fagersta, Sweden, and it started to ooze out of them and into their amps. They still use tracks they wrote way back then (A.K.A.I.D.I.O.T.) and for me all of it sounds like the ’50s’ and ’80s eras that I missed, with all the innovation, intelligence, pouting sex and cataclysmic joy that it once embodied.
When my favourite bands were around and touring, I wasn’t just barely legal, I wasn’t old enough to read. I wasn’t old enough to bleed! When I was a teenager, the only bands still going that I liked were Nirvana and The Smashing Pumpkins. I never thought I’d see The Cramps, Dead Kennedys or The Ventures. I never thought I’d experience the ripped raw sound that came with these bands.
But, tonight, I’ve found my new favourite band. These suited and booted Swedish uber-stars are the flesh and bone of a fantastic era of music that I thought was a corpse. Revived on stage under a Las Vegas-esque sign of the band’s name in showgirl-bulbs, they strut like black and white grinning peacocks, eyes wide and arms stretched open to take in the adulation of their fans. The circus that is The Hives is nothing less than a grand exaltant show that gives back every penny you spent on the ticket.
Their latest single, as y’all gotta know by now, is the theme to Kylie‘s panties ad and is on every self-respecting radio station’s play list and is called Main Offender. It wrenched an abrupt, unanimous roar from the crowd the moment it passed the luscious lips of lead singer Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist in his obligatory introduction (every song had a playful, haughty, breathlessly hoarse intro, every band member had several).
The surprise though, was that every single song was met with absolute, crap-yourself madness. ‘Here We Go Again’ had every mouth open, screaming hysterically, ecstatic with the gymnastic abilities of Almqvist and lead guitarist (and Pelle’s brother) Nichaulas Arson, two deranged ballerinas in black suits, holding nothing back in a display of obvious, joyous punk oblivion.
Die! Alright! almost got me a trip to the medical room as I was thrust and held, tits hanging over the side, ribs at braking point, against the metal security rail by the crazy gibbering cross-section of every class and clique in London, all of them trying their utmost to get nearer to these high-kickmeisters on stage.
The few times Almqvuist jumped off the stage and stepped up to the barriers, a thousand hands threw themselves out of the crowd to manhandle this vibrating maelstrom of Howlin’ song. Mine right with them.
At Hail! Hail! Spit & Drool I almost garrotted someone behind me as I lost all self-control and thrashed about like an AWOL washing machine while staring unblinking at Pelle who flung himself to the floor and back up again while simultaneously catching his microphone stand with his foot, all this while still performing, never breaking a note.
So, raise your black and white pom-poms and cheer for my new favourite band and yours. Maybe you’ll get one of their ties or guitars as they throw them into the crowd. Maybe security won’t take them off you.
As Almqvist says, “This is for us, this is for fun, this is for you”.