It was 29th December 2008 when The Hives last performed in Melbourne. At the time we were quite new to the music scene, and the thought that we had paid $80 for a ticket to band of which we only knew a few songs seemed outlandish. This night remains one of the best gigs we have ever attended. Upon the announcement of the Splendour line-up for this year, we knew The Hives were a band not be missed.
In the two and a half years since we last saw them, a lot has changed. Change of venue, change of support act, change of season. Nothing had changed from the band’s live attitude. The raw energy and sheer arrogance exhibited by front-man Howlin’ Pelle is rarely matched in modern music, and he was only just equalled in enthusiasm from the rest of the band and the devoted audience.
While last time it was relatively unknown Melbourne group The Fearless Vampire Killers opening, this time it was Aussie favourites The Grates. Led by the gorgeous Patience Hodgson, The Grates have come off a long break themselves, having only just released their third album after three years. It takes a strong performance to get the crowd jumping for a warm-up, but The Grates managed it. In a hit-laden set that included Carve Your Name, Silence Is Golden and my personal favourite Burn Bridges, their was hardly a dull moment. Patience dived into the crowd, jumped on one particularly delighted, and I assume arroused, punter’s shoulders and in fact The Grates were the perfect compliment to The Hives.
Credit to Andy Crosby for the photo
Whatever The Grates threw at us, they were little match for the Hives. After a uplifting intro that involved Howlin’ Pelle shouting “Come On!” at the rowdy crowd, the transition in to Main Offender was seamless. No rest for the wicked, as hit after hit followed. As Pelle seduced us, Nicholaus Arson undressed us with his eyes, and later in the set, Pelle married the adoring crowd to the band. There was a ceremony, it was bewildering, probably illegal and a little weird but now we are all Mr & Mrs Hives. I always find it a little risky when a band plays new, unreleased songs, but it is a testament to the brilliance that is The Hives live that new song Take Back The Toys was as well received as some of their other tracks. Classic Hives tracks Walk Idiot Walk and A Get Together To Tear Us Apart were interspersed between cult favourites Won’t Be Long and No Pun Intended. The renowned live show of the Hives satisfied their reputation of best live band on the planet. Their sleek and practiced blend of punk, garage rock and pop music simply blew the roof of the packed Palace Theatre. Standing in the second row as the main set came to an end, Pelle casually sat down on the edge of the stage and commanded the whole audience to sit. Slowly but surely the crowd sat, slightly confused but obedient, while Pelle chatted nonchalantly about nothing in particular. The tension built and built until finally the sound exploded from the drums, guitar and the bass and the crowd was on their feet screaming to the end of Tick Tick… Boom. Declare Guerre Nucleaire, another new song Patrolling Days, and Hate To Say I Told You So finished the encore in a manner only The Hives could manage.
While the night may have finished, the power of The Hives live show did not. Sweaty, cold and satisfied we sat on the train as our ears buzzed all the way home. I look forward to the return of our Husbands.