The Hives last played Chicago in 2012 at The Vic Theatre, the perfect avenue for their energetic and whimsical live show. When it was announced that they would open for Pink's 2013 tour [review], the first question that came to mind was how would they fare with a mainstream pop rock crowd? The Hives were up to the challenge as vocalist Howlin' Pelle Almqvist worked the vast United Center on March 9 the only way he knows--without constraint.
Touring on 2012 release, "Lex Hives," the sharply dressed Swedish rockers hit the stage around 8:15 p.m. Clad in their traditional black and white formal attire, with top hats, they opened with "Come On" from their latest album. For many in the crowd it was their first experience with The Hives, prompting Almqvist to proclaim, "We are the Hives" between nearly every song. The exuberant ring-leader continuously transferred his energy to the fans trickling into the arena, adding "Come on, put your hands in the air like so."
A large backdrop was draped from the rafters showing a wide-eyed puppeteer deviously manipulating his subjects, with strings flowing toward The Hives performing on stage. Their stage hands were dressed in Ninja garb, doing everything from playing maracas in the shadows to supplying drummer Chris Dangerous with sticks to keeping microphone and guitar cords untangled as The Hives constantly crisscrossed about the stage.
Outside of their non-standard attire, the first thing one noticed was the sonic tempo being orchestrated by Dangerous. His drumming raced at punk speeds and laid the foundation for their garage rock sound. Heavy guitar riffs led into The Ramones influenced "Try It Again."
"The other people really have enjoyed the first two songs, so you can just join in now and do what I say," said Almqvist, "It's imperative that everybody have a good night." During "Walk Idiot Walk" he left the stage to sing in the crowd, doing his best to connect with the entire crowd. The real puppeteer was Almqvist, commenting "I know that as much fun as it's been for me, it's been at least that much fun for you."
Taking their inspiration from acts that vary between The Sex Pistols to The Kinks, their raw and stripped down play enveloped the United Center. Almqvist stated, "We are going to give you a crash course in the Hives right now. Do you people like rock and roll? Do you want to hear some rock and roll? This is rock and roll!" That was their introduction to "Hate to Say I Told You So" from "Veni Vidi Vicious."
As the night progressed, the hats and jackets transformed to sweat soaked shirts with rolled sleeves. "Won't Be Long," "Go Right Ahead" and "Tick Tick Boom" rounded out their evening. Before their final song Almqvist played a game of Simon Says, toying with the general admission crowd near the stage. For those who didn't play along he added the notion, "I didn't really want to say this but as long as I'm here...Pink is not going to play." His dialogue was effective, getting the arena on their feet as The Hives concluded with a bevy of distortion then bowed together and waved good night.