THE HIVES with SAHARA HOTNIGHTS and REIGNING SOUND at the Phoenix, July 24. Tickets: $22. Attendance: sold out. Rating: NNNN
it seemed weirdly fitting that i'd come directly from Harbourfront Centre's Bad Brains summit on the African-American relationship with rock music only to find myself the sole black person in sight at the Hives ' sold-out Phoenix show Saturday night. Fans' cheers rose and fell in waves of anticipation during set-up and sound check, both of which took place behind dark curtains. After much waiting, the headstock of a guitar poked teasingly between the drapes, which opened to reveal vocalist Howlin' Pelle Almqvist , guitarists Nic Arson and Vigilante Carlstroem , bassist Dr. Matt Destruction and drummer Chris Dangerous sporting their sharp new matching threads - black dress shirts and pants, white string bowties and jackets - all of which would be glistening with sweat by the show's end.
Standing heads high, shoulders back before glaring vanity-mirror light bulbs and a glowing 50s-diner-style red neon sign of their name, they busted right into their herky-jerky riffing.
"Ah, it's nice to be back in the town of Toronto!" Almqvist howled over the opening drums of Walk Idiot Walk, face pressed against the mike. "I'd hate for something to happen to it!"
Naw, he didn't just say that, did he? I thought. But after the kinetic song's din gave way to silence, the lead singer made good on his threat. "If you don't clap and scream, we're going to destroy Toronto!" he menaced. "And you don't want Toronto to be destroyed, do you?"
Just one of my favourite statements from the swaggering, Jagger-like Almqvist, made between the eve's balanced repertoire of frenetic ditties from Veni, Vidi, Vicious and the brand-spankin' Tyrannosaurus Hives.
The set was a relentless series of tight, ear-splitting garage noise, every beat forced into overdrive with a harmony of distorted electrical strums, over which Almqvist wailed at the top of his bloody lungs. Their technical fidelity to the sound of their albums was impressive. The crowd, which included the young, old and all points in between, never stopped screaming, clapping, stomping the floor and volleying water bottles and sticky fans all over the place.
As the frontman mounted speakers, leaned into the constant mosh of a floor-shaking stage-centre audience and even half-climbed onto an unstable-looking gangplank jutting above the exit, spinning his microphone around like a helicopter and catching it, he exclaimed, "We are from Sweden, for those who don't know! We are the Hives! We are very, very famous and good!"
I'm not arguing with that.