Thursday, May 15, Sweden's The Hives returned to Atlanta to play Center Stage in the CW Midtown Music Complex. Surprisingly the venue was not sold out for this amazing treat of music, theatre, and humour. My best estimate would put attendance in the neighbourhood of 1,400, several hundred people shy of capacity. Those who did make the show were a motley crew of punks, indie rock kids, and even a smattering of middle-agers.
Jack Oblivion and The Tennessee Tearjerkers opened the festivities with their brand of "hillbilly punk." The band hails from Memphis and was joined by fellow Memphis guitarist John Paul Keith. Their show was very enjoyable and was punctuated by a captivating and completely unexpected cover of The Blues Brothers instrumental theme song. John Paul Keith is a very accomplished guitarist and managed to meld his style with the rest of the band beautifully. Jack O. isn't a slouch himself on the ax, and his raspy voice puts just the right touch on the band's rough and often frenetic sound. The only major detraction from their set was the keyboards. While the keys player performed with great passion, he made frequent mistakes and often responded by pounding the keyboard. This also caused the sound mix to go horribly wrong, and the keys completely drowned out the rest of the band each and every time he did it.
Jack Oblivion & The Tennessee Tearjerkers performance rating (out of 5): 2.75
After an extended intermission (almost 45 minutes), The Hives slowly took to the stage one member at a time while their instrumental interlude "A Stroll Through Hive Manor Corridors" played over the venue speakers. Lead singer/performer Pelle Almqvist was the last to join the band onstage and did so by sprinting to the mic, grabbing it with gusto, and proceeding directly into an impressive scissor kick. There are some people that were just born to perform, and Pelle is absolutely one of those people. His stage presence is undeniable, and words like "shy" and "modest" are not in his vocabulary or constitution. As many of you undoubtably already know and can see from the above picture, The Hives are always attired in matching three-piece suits which are always black and white in colour scheme. Simply the image of five guys playing fast-and-furious punk songs while simultaneously pouring sweat and spitting at anything and everyone on stage is enough to rouse a chuckle. Then Pelle starts talking. And talking. And TALKING. It would be impossible for me to remember all of the fantasticly hilarious things he said, but I'll recap a few of the quotes that stuck with me.
"I don't know if y'all are aware of this, but you're at a rock show. And the good Lord or whoever created the concept of the rock show intended for y'all to clap your hands! So I want you to do this for me. Take one hand and put it in the air. Now take your other hand and put it next to that hand. Now make them come together in a violent collision!"
"...but God's not here right now, so I guess you'll just have to listen to me."
"Don't you just love me? Yeah, I love me too...Alright, group, play it!"
"This is a real nice venue you have here, Atlanta. It would be an awful shame if something were to happen to it. Something terrible like the crowd exploding!"
"Whenever I ask you something and you feel like saying 'Yeah', instead I want you to put your hand to head in salute and say 'Sir, yes sir!'"
Just in case you were wondering, yes, the crowd did indeed salute Pelle and recited the requested phrase repeatedly for the rest of the night. Pelle is also an accomplished microphone stand twirler. He only lost control of it once, and of course it fell into the crowd, prompting a young girl to grab it and scream into the mic before returning it to its proper owner.
As for the rest of the band, they had their one shining moment as well. During "You Dress Up for Armageddon", they brought the song to a screeching halt when all five members froze and held their poses for at least a full minute as the crowd cheered and frantically reached for their camera phones to capture the image. Lead guitarist Nicholaus Arson also has quite the performer streak in him and danced wildly around the stage while playing. He has also mastered the trick of the 360 degree guitar twirl around the neck, a feat that should only be attempted by those with sturdy, well-affixed guitar straps for obvious reasons. If there were any antics performed by Vigilante Carlstroem, Dr. Matt Destruction, or Chris Dangerous, I missed them (forgive me if I was distracted).
Just a few of the notable songs performed in the main set included "Main Offender", "Hate to Say I Told You So", "Walk Idiot Walk", "Diabolic Scheme", "Try It Again", "You Got It All....Wrong", "See Through Head", and "Two Timing Touch and Broken Bones". The band concluded the evening and encore with their latest smash single "Tick Tick Boom".
If you couldn't already deduce, The Hives put on one hell of a show. It is a highly entertaining mix of loud, raw power anthems, rock theatre, and off-kilter stand up comedy. That is a combination not often found in the modern rock scene, and one that has not been done well since Iggy Pop and The Stooges. Sure, the lead singer is a bit on the egomaniacal side and expects the audience to accept that, but it's all in good fun. All in very good fun.
The Hives performance rating (out of 5): 4.6