Swedish punk rockers The Hives kicked off their seemingly short Scream Team Tour in Philadelphia this past Saturday at the beloved Electric Fac—I mean, North Sev—errrr, FRANKLIN MUSIC HALL with tour mates, Refused as well as local hitters, Control Top and RunHideFight.
The last offering from The Hives was their one-off single, “Blood Red Moon” back in 2015. That is, until last Friday when the dropped “I’m Alive” to help promote the new US mini tour.
A sludgy, scoffing 4-minute comeback rocker about “crawling up from under a rock and obliterating all resistance” frontman Pelle Almqvist explained. Longer than that, the band’s last major US tour was SIX years ago in 2013!! Of course, they hit other continents and played countless Euro-festivals (including a one-off at 2016’s Riot Fest in Chicago) during this US absence; but We The People (of Philadelphia) were ready to welcome The Hives back, in a packed house.
11:30PM. The houselights dim, ominous orchestral music begins and a neon sign reading “The Hives” illuminates in a red cursive glow above the stage. Before anyone realized it, four white silhouettes seemed to appear out of thin air as the light slowly came up and Chris Dangerous started in, keeping time on the drums. As lead guitarist Nicholaus Arson counted in, “1-2! 1-2! 1-2-3!” the fifth and final member—Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist—entered playfully, stage right, grasping his mic stand, continuing to the opposite side of the stage as the band kicked into their 2012 album opener, “Come On!“ to kick things off.
Hailed for having one of the best live shows around, The Hives did not disappoint, as Howlin’ Pelle took a step onto the barricade during the second song of the night, balancing as he semi-dove headfirst into the crowd to share the mic on “Walk Idiot Walk”, which the audience graciously helped shout the chorus. Then, teetering cooly along the rail like only Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman could pull off, Pelle launched himself in a calculated sloppy fashion—and I do mean that in the best way—back onto the stage, finishing up before sharing with the fans, “…we have come back! To give you…OURSELVES!!! Speaking of which, this next song is about how fucking annoying I am. It’s called MAIN OFFENDERRRRRRRRRRR!!!”.
As the band was playing and moving about the stage, one ponders how they do this, that is perform a charged up, punk rock show in matching tuxedos without sweating to death. Of course, the tuxedos were—in true Hives fashion—black and white, as are all their stage-worn clothes because the band believes it makes them look like they belong together. By this point in a Hives show, if you’re not convinced Howlin’ Pelle is one of the best frontmen around, constantly interacting with and commanding the audience with ease, I have bad news for you, my friend; you are a fool. Egging the Philadelphia crowd on about a new number, The Hives then unleashed Paint a Picture in all of its surf-rock glory; which, to be fair, they have been playing live for about a year on their Euro festival dates.
Rolling seamlessly from the new cut into another classic, “Go Right Ahead” found The Hives teasing the recognizable riff repeatedly whilst our conductor of mischief for the evening, Howlin’ Pelle conducted a brief lesson on hands to the eager Philadelphia audience.
“You got hands, Philly? I see your hands. Get your hands a-clappin’. Raise one hand up like so. Now raise the other. Now, one plus one equals hands clappin’. It’s simple math; good rock equals hands clappin’. ARE YOU READY?!”
By time Pelle was done with his fundamental lesson and the song, he FINALLY unbuttoned his shirt a bit and removed his bowtie, miraculously still not showing sings of breaking a sweat after jumping around the stage like a flea on a hot brick for half the set.
Moving into more new music, Howlin’ Pelle finally had a few hairs out of place with his continued head banging on the sped-up punk rocker, “Good Samaritan”. The song finds its protagonist is actually an antagonist, selfish at heart and found Almqvist again jumping to the barrier and meeting the crowd during each ass-kicking chorus:
I’m not the answer to your problem// I’m not the one to help you out// I never was the good samaritan// I’m not the one to sort you out// So take it away, that won’t get you paid// You gotta help yourself// I got my own problems// So I try to say in every kind of way// I never was the good samaritan// I turn my back and walk away//
From the crowd reaction and great arrangement, “Good Samaritan” definitely has single potential for The Hives’ rumored upcoming release (not yet confirmed and no timeline for what’s to come for the band after this brief tour).
Howlin’ Pelle then took back to his figurative podium and gave a rousing speech of exceeding expectations, ending with:
“…the limit of what we can do is limitless. You. Me. The Hives…Let go of of your job, let go of the fact there’s a Monday coming up…this song is still about rockin’ the fuck out!”
then launching into three fan favorites back-to-back-to-back, “Take Back the Toys“, “Won’t Be Long” and arguable their biggest hit-to-date, “Hate to Say I Told You So“. Yet again proving he is a top-notch entertainer, Almqvist continued throughout the end of the main set with more fun interactions to the opening night crowd like,
“the city of brotherly love, is that what they call you? We’re from the city of kick ass rock ’n’ roll! And you get to see The Hives! I’m jealous of you and you’re jealous of me!” And later, “…everybody knows what Saturday feels like…IT FEELS LIKE THE HIVES, RIGHT?!”
The venue-rattling applause as The Hives exited the stage brought the band back moments after their curtain call. New single “I’m Alive“ proved the perfect encore opener, with it’s chorus questioning, “So did you miss me boys and girls?// I crawled out of the underworld//”and Howlin’ Pelle’s guttural screams of “And I’m aliiiiiiiiiiiive! I’m aliiiiiiiiive!” The new song’s gloom ’n’ doom sounding bells tolling throughout as Almqvist sings about a resurrection of sorts works as well live as it hits when listening through your headphones. The song also has verses mocking those that would dance upon your grave—the antagonists mentioned not knowing you’re really alive and thriving, that is. The positive message about rising like a phoenix of sorts and not being overcome resonated well with the Philadelphia crowd, no doubt due in part to Howlin’ Pelle’s uplifting commentary throughout the entire night. After bestowing some more loving wisdom on the opening night audience, The Hives closed out the magnificent set with “Tick Tick Boom”, which had every one bouncing along. One of The Hives very last messages delivered was how they wish they could play for two more hours—it was already 12:40AM at this point, mind you—but things exist in America that hold them back, like curfews…or you know, bed times, maybe? Hahaha I KID, I KID.
However late the show is, if The Hives are coming near you, be sure you don’t miss out! This tour is already half over with sell out or low ticket warnings for all the shows. If you don’t go now, who knows how long you may have to wait until their next US tour?!
All upcoming dates can be found at their website, here!
And for those mylifeinsound readers into records…be on the lookout for a limited edition double A-side of I’m Alive, due in stores June 28 (at the time of this article publication, no pre-order links are available).
Walk Idiot Walk
Paint a Picture
Go Right Ahead
Take Back the Toys
Won’t Be Long
Hate to Say I Told You So
Tick Tick Boom