Review by Mike Gallagher, Photos by Randall Vasquez
Aside from the Flaming Lips, the only other rock band I’ve seen that guarantees a good time is Sweden’s answer to the Ramones, the Hives.
Led by the boisterous and cocky Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist, the Hives did their best to make everyone in the Sound Academy really feel they were part of something special, if not sweaty.
Arriving on stage donning the same tuxedos complete with tails and top hats that adorn the cover of their newest album, Lex Hives, the band wasted no time in setting a frantic pace right from the get go with “Come On!” that starts the new album.
There aren’t many people who take to continuous goading of an audience to applaud or scream, but Pelle makes it so darned enjoyable. Giggling at a concert is rare for me, but it’s hard to keep a straight face at a Hives show. Who else can get away with threatening to kill an unresponsive crowd by blood sucking? Apparently vampires thrive on applause and blood is only a last resort. I wonder if the makers of True Blood are aware of this.
Unresponsive the Toronto crowd was not this evening. Chanting long before the band hit the stage, the crowd was like putty in the band’s hands, pogo-ing and fist pumping when not trying to deal with a sweaty situation.
Back to Pelle, by the end of the third song “Take Back the Toys”, he declared we had got our money’s worth and the rest was a Christmas bonus. What Pelle offers in audacious stage banter, the band match with sheer intensity. A healthy dose of tracks from Lex Hives fit in just nicely with “the hits”, most notably “Main Offender” and “Walk Idiot Walk”.
Closing the set with a wall-melting “Tick Tick Boom”, Pelle manage to convince the audience to sit and part down the middle. He walked through the “parted sea” of bodies to the back of the room, even managing to get one standing fellow to also sit down. The reasoning for this was lost on the energetic front-man, but eventually he raced back up to the stage to close out the song and depart.
The mass exodus from the venue (before the encore) didn’t happen and following a run through their biggest hit, “Hate To Say I Told You So”, Pelle went from threats of blood sucking to a mass proposal to the sweaty gathering. We all screamed “I Do” and the feelings were obviously very mutual.