Monday, October 1, 2007

The Hives @ Metro

Swedish garage rockers make like Mick Jagger Sunday night

The raucous but polished Swedish garage-rock band the Hives took the Metro's stage Sunday night like an adept politician, ready to woo an audience and then the nation. The show jump-started a U.S. tour promoting a much-anticipated fourth record, titled The Black and White Album, out Nov. 13 -- and thankfully didn't see them opening for Maroon 5, as many of the concerts will this tour.

For a band that's reportedly ended shows saying, "You were great. So were we," there was much boasting to be expected from frontman Howlin' Pelle Almqvist. With a hand frequently on his hip, he handles the stage in a Mick Jagger-esque fashion. His brother, guitarist Nicholaus Arson, also has the rock-star antics down, and between the two of them, there was much spitting, scissor-kicking, rafter-climbing, stage-diving and mike-stand-abusing. None of it was out of place.

A brief history of the Hives looks something like this: They existed in the '90s but had yet to develop the Hives sound we've since come to know. By 2002, they'd found it, and with the release of Veni Vidi Vicious, many Americans were introduced to something raw and boastful. It helped to stir up enough excitement about Scandinavian music that we're still, five years later, in the throes of what could easily be called the Scandinavian Invasion.

The 2004 release of Tyrannosaurus Hives gave more of the same, which was pleasing to fans but less startling to most. And the question became whether they had a sound that's enough to hold our attention. Taking nearly four years to record their latest album -- going to different, high-end producers like Pharrel in Miami and Dennis Herring, who's produced Modest Mouse and Elvis Costello, in Oxford, Mississippi -- the band seemed eager to get this one right. They talked the album up on stage Sunday night, and played a few songs from it, going over, like the rest of the show, extremely well.

Unfortunately or not, nothing they can do will likely have the same impact as Veni Vidi Vicious -- nothing as unexpected as a sudden roar from an otherwise quiet part of the globe -- but no matter how the new album goes over, one thing was clear Sunday night: If you're curious enough to give the Hives a listen, you'll probably end up being convinced. And I almost feel sorry for Maroon 5. They have a hell of an act to follow. - Fred Koschmann

Photos by Fred Koschmann