Review | The Hives at Portsmouth Guildhall: 'A thrilling live experience'
Chris Dangerous strides onstage alone to the Cape Fear theme.
He sits at his drum kit, points both drum sticks at the crowd, and then he’s off.
The rest of the band dash on and Dangerous’s frantic beat propels Come On! – a short, sharp shock of an opener, and then we’re straight into Main Offender, one of the tracks which helped first put these Swedish punk-rock’n’rollers in the spotlight here in the UK nearly 20 years ago.
After this blistering one-two punch frontman Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist greets us with: ‘The Hives have announced their presence.’
Almqvist is man never knowingly troubled by self-doubt. Part Mick Jagger, part Iggy Pop, part stand-up, he high-kicks constantly, leaping on and off the monitors – and the speaker stack at one point – and threatens life and limb of anyone within several yards of him as he repeatedly twirls his mic through the air on its cord.
And his belief in his and his band’s brilliance would be stunningly arrogant if his tongue wasn’t firmly wedged in his cheek throughout.
He teases the crowd throughout like the old pro that he is – and they love him for it.
When the audience is asked to rate his band out of five, ‘five’ is for normal bands, ‘seven out of five’? Still not enough. I believe it gets to ‘127/5’ before he’s satisfied.
Sometimes he talks so much he loses his thread, as in one extended riff about us all falling through a ‘rift in the space/time continuum’ so the gig will go on forever.
Renowned for their stage outfits, the band are all decked out in suits with a striking (ahem) lightning-style motif. And when the lights are dimmed, they are revealed to glow in the dark, which is a nice touch.
Go Right Ahead is introduced as being ‘from our most recent album, released some time in the cretaceous period’. And it's true The Hives haven't released an album since 2012’s Lex Hives.
Perhaps this is why The Guildhall is sadly less than packed – with no new material to plug, most fans will have seen this set, or very similar, before.
However, both tracks from 2019’s double A-sided single Good Samaritan and I’m Alive make welcome appearances.
Their biggest hit Walk Idiot Walk (it reached number 13 back in 2004) is despatched mid-set. Ploughing onwards, driven by guitarist Nicholas Arson’s array of memorable garage-rock riffs, they finish on a raucous Hate To Say I Told You So.
But of course, a band as in love with the theatrics of rock’n’roll would never resist an encore.
And so they return for three more, ultimately finishing on Tick Tick Boom, which features them ‘freezing’ mid-song. It’s an old trick of theirs, but still an effective one. There are then some rambling band member intros from Almqvist before he parts the crowd like The Red Sea to take a wander to the sound desk.
He eventually bounds back on to the stage for the – pardon the pun – explosive finale.
Almqvist bids us goodnight with: ‘You have been our favourite audience, and we are the greatest band you'll ever see.’
Honestly, neither part of that is quite true, but The Hives are a great band and do remain a thrilling live experience, always worth catching.
And they’ll put a smile on your face.
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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