Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Hives: Live at the Black Cat, 10.17.07

The Hives’ hyped reputation as live performers is well earned, as they proved Wednesday night with a nuclear set at the Black Cat in D.C.

The Swedish quintet is touring this fall with Maroon 5, an unlikely pairing that serves as an attempt to spread its version of dance punk rock to the pop-loving masses. Not content to sit on their laurels in between shows, however, at certain cities during this run the Hives are doing their own thing at small clubs like the Black Cat, a venue that seemed barely able to contain the band’s manic power.

Well, really, it couldn’t. Aptly named frontman Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist was all over the stage during his band’s blistering 70-minute set, frequently hanging from a well-used metal pipe above the stage; at one point near the end of the show he went back and stood on the drum kit, his head up between the ceiling’s rafters.

Almqvist is a sight to behold on stage, dressed like his bandmates in a matching black suit. He never stops moving, whether he’s leaning into the crowd, spinning the microphone a la Roger Daltrey, or delivering jump kicks to punctuate his band’s fiery tempos. He also maintained a constant chatter between songs, playing on he and his band’s charming egomania—“Yes, it is true. We are here in person,” he quipped early in the show. “You can touch me if you like.”

I wasn’t taking notes so I unfortunately can’t offer up an official setlist, but I know the Hives blew threw most of the songs you’d expect and want from their catalog: “Main Offender,” “A.K.A. I-D-I-O-T,” “Walk Idiot Walk,” “Die, All Right!”, “Supply and Demand,” and, of course, “Hate to Say I Told You So,” their breakthrough hit from 2000’s “Veni Vidi Vicious.” A 70-minute show might seem a little short, but considering this band’s albums barely crack half an hour, they were able to power through quite a bit of material in such a short time. That included a few choice cuts from the forthcoming “The Black and White Album” (it’s already out overseas but doesn’t hit Stateside until next month). From the sound of things Wednesday night, this should be another excellent collection.

The biggest thing I took away from this week’s show, though, is how much pure joy and fun the Hives seem to be having onstage, and how much of that translates to the audience. The frenetic music is upbeat, Almqvist is undeniably charismatic, and you get the feeling they’re perfectly comfortable playing to 1,000 people in a little club or 20,000 at a big arena. Set ’em up, and the Hives will knock ’em down. I was wearing a huge grin most of the night, because this band attacks with everything they’re worth; you’d have to work really hard not to have a good time at their gig. What more can you ask from a rock and roll band?

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