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A slightly overweight teen and his mom stand at the front of the floor area at the House of Blues, and she was concerned. “Is there going to be shoving?” she asked. “Jumping?” She was not ready for the force of nature that was about to take the stage—Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist and the legendary Swedish garage band The Hives. Throughout the night, we’d be asked many questions—“What’s your mother’s maiden name? What sort of car do you drive? Who is going to solve global warming?” The answer, as to everything, was The Hives.
After openers Flesh Lights (for your own sake, put “band” in the Google search afterward) and punk-hipsters Fidlar finished their high-power set, I took a moment to freak out. It’s been four years since The Hives toured internationally for The Black and White Album (2007), and the floor of the House of Blues was rightfully packed and set to go with the half-amazing, half-terrifying backdrop of a maniacal puppetmaster waiting to take the five-piece band into his evil hands. This is a band formed by a few rebellious Swedes in 1993 in their high school years, their new album Lex Hives just hit the mainstream, and they haven’t gotten sick of each other yet? The energy between Pelle, his brother Nicholas Arson, Vigilante Carlstroem, Dr. Matt Destruction, and Chris Dangerous hasn’t faded at all? Nope.
Opening with a song consisting of two words—“Come on”—and they were off, all glad in coattails and top hats, their punky Sunday finest. Speaking of the recent heat wave, our tour guide through the treacherous, excellent world of The Hives (Pelle himself) had nothing but jokes. “It’s a little hot out here for a couple of Swedish guys,” he said in his spooky narration. “We were raised by polar bears. So it’s a good thing we’re so f***ing cool!” He made several hilarious allusions to the new album between tracks in a set that was very heavy on the new album. Boston was the first to be treated to a live performance of new track “These Spectacles Reveal Nostalgics”, Nicholas Arson noted with his trademark wide eyes, as well as seven other tracks from the new album. Pelle kicked, shook, and wiggled accordingly, employing his adorable, maddening habit of tossing a mic twenty feet into the air and catching it once more before a two second pause in the music could come to a close. “What do you want to hear more than anything in the world right now?” he asked. “The Hives!”
In addition to the extensive cuts from Lex Hives, the band didn’t forget to appease with the songs that made them famous to begin with—appropriately “Puppet on a String” from 2007’s Black and White Album was featured alongside three monster hits from their earlier albums. 2004’s Tyrannosaurus Hives single “Walk Idiot Walk” very nearly tore the house down and gave the less outgoing band members guitarist Vigilante and incredible bassist Dr. Matt a chance to shine, and “Hate to Say I Told You So” plays just as fresh as it did since its release twelve years ago. Best of all, “Tick Tick Boom” featured the band frozen on stage for forty-five full seconds as the audience “tick tick-ed” until the final boom, a frenzy of guitars and jack-knife kicks from Pelle. Why do that? “The Hives!”
To conclude a magnificent show, Pelle kicked his ego into overdrive and played God by “parting the Red Sea” before concluding with two Lex Hives hits, “My Time is Coming” and “Go Right Ahead”, the debut single. With the flick of his hand, the floor parted into two sections and the man himself strutted up and down in coattails, introducing the band and thanking their producer Randy Fitzsimmons (a figure who has never been seen except in silhouette and is largely regarded as fictional) before swaggering and swaying his way back to the stage to bow with his four long-time bandmates. Though the Red Sea was tempted, Pelle was undisturbed as he danced through the crowd, no one having the guts or the selfishness to want to ruin the moment. As he returned to the stage, the Red Sea crashed together once more to pogo to the conclusion of the show, and no audience member left without three pounds lost in sweat and yet another reason to love one of the best punk bands of our generation.
The Hives were and have always been distinctive as punk rockers, choosing style over scruff and giving away their stage props over spitting at their audience. Full grown men dove like lonely single women for a bride’s bouquet when Chris Dangerous flung his drumsticks into the crowd as gifts, and those in the front begged for gracefully-given picks and hats. They were cocky, they were loud, and as Pelle said himself, “If you didn’t come here to listen to fast music, I don’t know why you showed up at all.” And remember, ladies and gentlemen, the answer to everything is The Hives.