Sydney was expecting its hottest day in 50 years and no surprises, The Hives were taking full responsibility. It was a bold statement. But it was an unsurprising one to come from those garage rockers who have anointed themselves, “The world’s greatest live act” and “Your new favourite band”. The truth is that while they didn’t actually achieve the feat of bringing the sun closer to the earth like they’d said, they still put on one scorching, energetic and shit-hot show at the Metro.

But first, what would you do if you’re opening for such a polished and well-loved group? Well, if you’re young punks, Dune Rats, then you adopt a completely different approach. The slacker trio of skate rats-come-surf punks were as casual as f**k from their shorts on-stage to their playing and cracking their own in-jokes with the roadies. As such, the set felt like it was being performed in their mates’ lounge room or their parents’ garage.

“Pogo” is a catchy number with a conga line of “Ooh-oohs” while “On Our Own” was all volume and advanced hair (that is, swishing like two head-bangers in the breeze). The guys invited their mate, Brad Heald (previously from The Vines and Red Riders) on-stage to play guitar for some of the tracks. It proved a good fit because at least one number had the kind of caterwauling you’d associate with Craig Nicholls’ own tortured soul.

The youngsters’ music shared things in common with Bleeding Knees Club and Step-Panther. The set went for about 45 minutes and they crammed in as much as possible with songs like “F(r)iends” bleeding into “Lie & Liar” and performed with the same break-neck speed as The Ramones. A cover of Violent Femmes’ “Blister in the Sun” was done with pure stoner jest and the same could be said for the whole set. The crowd may not have enjoyed the proceedings as much as watching the headliner’s spectacle, but you felt like the guys were having an absolute ball making a racket before they could all bunk off back to the beach.

When The Hives came on stage you knew things were gonna be a whole lot different. Firstly, there was an ominous puppeteer pulling strings as the back-drop. A piano played a cross between something you’d associate with the introduction to the weird and wonderful world of the Wizard of Oz and some more sinister horror or creepiness in The Addams Family. The guys meanwhile, were in their current uniform and were really dapper in their top hats, tuxedos and tails.

They started with “Come On!” and it was the first of many songs to come from their current record, Lex Hives. Half of the set would be new material and unlike other artists, the energy in the room did not falter one bit during these tracks. It’s a testament to the strength of the album and their live chops, because the audience was whipped into a complete frenzy from the start and the energy stayed at this ungodly peak.

The band are on the verge of celebrating their twentieth anniversary and the show is a tight one obviously fuelled by their experience with their chosen instruments and collective adoration of the guitar, bass and drums. A search on the Internet reveals that their set-list in Australia has been largely unchanged but the guys make things seem so fresh, you wouldn’t know. Their enthusiasm is so obvious you feel like you can taste it. If you knew nothing about them and their history you could convince yourself that these guys were only playing their second show together because they all seemed to be having THAT great a time!

An obvious drawcard for the band is the frontman, Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist. The man is one sexy beast and hyper machine that does not sit still. One minute he’s wailing from the drum riser, next he’s crooning from the monitor and before you know it he’s scissor-kicking on stage or wiggling his butt. But that’s when he’s not high-fiving the audience and doing laps of the photo pit. He swung his microphone like Roger Daltrey and windmilled like Pete Townshend, but if there was one person he truly resembled then it is Mick Jagger just for his professionalism, showmanship and ability to keep everyone – even those in the nosebleed section – entertained.

Older songs like “Try It Again” sat well with new ones like “Take Back the Toys”. The new material – just like the cream offered from the back catalogue – seems custom-built for getting people up to the top of that garage rock precipice to dance and scream like no one’s watching. Singles like “Main Offender”, “Walk Idiot Walk” and “Die, Alright!” had catchy riffs set to eleven as we clapped along like kids that had received everything they’d ever wanted for Christmas. Some of the guitar-work seemed inspired by AC/DC while “I Want More” must thank Skyhooks for their million dollar riff.

It was a strange decision to drop “Hate to Say I Told You So” a few songs out from closing. But it was sheer mayhem with people singing along and even applauding the thunderous bass solo by Dr. Matt Destruction. It was smoking and therefore odd to go from that to The Hives’ “Surprise song of the night” AKA “Bigger Hole to fill” and then “Patrolling Days”.

They returned for an encore with the E.L.O.-inspired, “Go Right Ahead”. “Insane” would follow before the quintet did a nice little send-off to farewell one of their roadies (both of whom were dressed as ninjas). They drank champagne before the party well and truly climaxed with “Tick Tick Boom”. Howlin’ Pelle had been boasting and making hilarious wise cracks all-night but here he’d outdo himself. Proving how commanding a presence he really is, he got everyone in the audience to sit down during part of the last song (one straggler was asked if he had haemorrhoids when he didn’t immediately sit). So basically, when Pelle asks you must listen and thankfully, the master allowed us all to stand for the incendiary ending.

The Swedish rock ‘n’ rollers had put on one entertaining rock show. It was full of raw power, sexual energy, volume, riffs, laughs and so much more. The spirits were kept high and only seemed to increase with every new note and beat, at times threatening to spin completely out of control. Of course, when Almqvist gave us a multiple choice quiz at the end to ask if the gig had been a 10/10, 12/10, 47/10, 800/10 or 1239.7/10, the answer was obviously a no-brainer.

The Hives’ set list:
1. Come On!
2. Try It Again
3. Take Back the Toys
4. These Spectacles Reveal The Nostalgics
5. Main Offender
6. Walk Idiot Walk
7. My Time Is Coming
8. No Pun Intended
9. Wait A Minute
10. Die, Alright
11. I Want More
12. Won’t Be Long
13. Hate To Say I Told You So
14. Bigger Hole to Fill
15. Patrolling Days
16. Go Right Ahead
17. Insane
18. Tick Tick Boom

Originally published on 8 January 2013 at the following website:

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