The Hives, Donnas

Wiltern, Feb. 19

Photos by Timothy Norris

It's been eight years since the Hives started telling us they were going to take over the world. Back in those heady days of early 00's, rock bands were back out of the garage and into the spotlight big-time, scoring bonus points if they were from Sweden. In a way, you have to feel a little bad that the Hives' plan of domination didn't work out like they said it would. Here we are, still loving Swedish bands, but it's the more modest ones like the Shout Out Louds and Peter, Bjorn and John. They're in danger of becoming dinosaurs, like the Tyrannosaurus Hives of their '04 album.

The Hives took the Wiltern's stage in darkness under a huge, red neon sign, while the creepy instrumental “A Stroll Through Hive Manor Corridors” played. The neon was the sole flash of color in their black and white set-up, that covered their clothes, guitars, even Chris Dangerous' white-painted drumsticks.

The crowd came alive in no time, a bit of a surprise, since the Donnas, who opened the show, couldn't seem to get much energy flowing in the room, despite their

best efforts. Songs from the Hives' latest, “Try It Again,” and “You Dress Up for Armageddon” sounded stronger in the Wiltern than they do on the Black and White Album.

It helps that Howlin' Pelle Almqvist's energy seems limitless. He crossed the stage from one end to the other every ten seconds. He climbed a stack of amplifiers, made his way into the crowd (“If anyone finds my button, please return it to the lost and found, ok?”) and made some impressive leaps in the air from the drum kit.

But there were fewer dance moves that ended in splits and not as many microphone tossing tricks or boasts as there once was. It almost seems as if they've gotten a bit modest over the years. The bragging's still there – and funnier than it used to be. Almqvist admired the Wiltern and its beauty then said, “It's a shame we're going to have to blow it up,” before launching into “Tick Tick Boom.” He said he was glad to be in California, the world's fourth largest economy, “Because we're here to take all your money – please buy all of our t-shirts.” Now that they hype around them has dissipated and they're no longer hailed as the saviors of rock, it's just a good show, played for all it's worth.

One move the Hives have kept that I still love I call the “Wax museum freeze.” In the middle of a song, the band stops dead still in mid riff. Nicholaus Arson holds his guitar out with hand welded to the neck, Almqvist's bug-eyed pose can be examined at length, even a drop of sweat running down Dr. Matt Destruction's forehead seems to wait patiently. They hold it like this for 30 seconds while the crowd goes ape, until they finally plunge right back in, like an alarm clock that had briefly come unplugged.

The crowd reacted most loudly to the hits off the Hives' breakthrough Vini Vidi Vicious, “Hate To Say I Told You So” and “Main Offender,” but they played at least half a dozen tracks from The Black and White Album, and they fit right in.

The Hives will never take over the world the way they said they would (or the way they convinced Interscope they could), but that's not a problem for anyone other than their label. Their show still rules, and as long as Pelle can leap and howl, that's enough.

All photos by Timothy Norris. More from the concert, including the Donnas here.

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