The Hives @ The Wiltern – 9/14/2012
The stage setup itself literally pulls you in with an image; an uncomfortably close face shot, blown up to span the width and height of the stage. The photo has two hands and ten fingers eerily reaching out towards the crowd, with real ropes both wrapped around each finger and extending out into 3-D space, cascading down onto the stage floor.
Once the guys take the stage in their top hats, waistcoats and shoes brought to a mirror-shine, they open with “Come On,” beckoning the crowd to join in the ordered chaos. “Howlin” Pelle Almqvist uses the reach of his voice to wallop, whack and whip the crowd at the Wiltern into a frenzy, “This machine on stage doesn’t run on money alone. We need your screams!”
These guys not only know how to rock, they make it look easy. Guitarist Nicholaus Arson uses his guitar the way a pole dancer uses the pole; it actually facilitates his movement and brings a different level of animation to the sound. At combustible speed and with the accuracy of a seasoned, albeit mad scientist, Chris Dangerous holds the buzz of the Hives steady and ready to turn a hair into coaxing combinations of snapping snares and crashing symbols.
Nevertheless, Dr. Matt Destruction on electric bass guitar nearly brings me to full on swoon because the man clearly has thunder in his fingertips. His chords sound like deep, primal groans and there are several times throughout the night where his foot stomping and neck grooving to the beat are enough to steal the spotlight from Almqvist. The unassuming Vigilante Carlstroem is so submerged in his guitar sound that he is almost struck a few times by “Firecracker” Almqvist as he dismounts from anything that will hold steady long enough. All of the Hives are fearless daredevils for even stepping onto the stage with this guy.
Indeed, sound always passes just as quickly as it came, but the Hives’ sound has staying power that digs and roots into you. The Hives know they’re good, and they play it up. As entertainers, they give themselves permission to do what they feel and their infectious free spirits carry the crowd through the whole ordeal of the sideshow. Fans find themselves fawning over behavior that would never pass anywhere else; very few can lean back, hawk up and eject bodily fluids across the stage much to the delight of the crowd who egg them on, singing every word and clinging to every chord. If there were a course on rock performance, a live show with the Hives would be a required field trip and a reenactment would stand in as the final exam.
It’s obvious that these swedes are either candidly crazy or they are raging geniuses, but the key is that they won’t settle for anything in between. People live their whole lives without that kind of direction but the Hives, as a collective of charisma and cool, have forged together to perform the music that others have only ever dreamed of making, and consistently so over the span of their 20 year-long career.
Of course the biggest fans of the Hives are the Hives, and why shouldn’t they be? They understand how important it is to remove all barriers within themselves on the heights they can reach as creative geniuses; they won’t ever be the ones to tell themselves, “NO! STOP!” For them, their latest album Lex Hives is only the beginning because they don’t limit themselves the way mere mortals might, giving themselves permission to break the rules, and there is simply no other way to both rock and roll.
Setlist: Come On! | Try It Again | Take Back the Toys | 1000 Answers | Walk Idiot Walk | Main Offender | My Time is Coming | Die, All Right! | Wait a Minute | No Pun Intended | These Spectacles Reveal the Nostalgics | I Want More | Won’t Be Long | Hate To Say I Told You So | Patrolling Days ENCORE: Go Right Ahead | Insane Tick Tick Boom
Photos by: Paul Hebert