It's been a long time – six years, in fact – since the Hives launched themselves on to a British music market that was bone-dry in comparison to the crowded, internet-propelled scene of today. Strutting, yelping, preening and armed with some irresistibly hell-raising guitar anthems, they landed to near-universal critical and public acclaim.
It doesn't hurt, of course, but they already had a few years of success in their native Sweden behind them at the time, and a ready-honed selection of songs in their set. In fact, Your New Favourite Band – their debut album in Britain – was actually a de facto greatest hits album.
Yet the Hives are among the very youngest survivors of a previous generation. Are they still good enough to deserve survival amidst the army of skinny, raucous white boys playing rock '*' roll out there?
They certainly seem to think so. The band's introduction is an aching tease, a blast of soothing incidental music to go with the dimming of the lights, and then their autographed neon red logo flaring to life against a bank of white light bulbs and the glowing, spotlit drumriser. It's like a big-budget variety show from the 1980s.
As the band file on separately and piece together a rising, urgent rhythm, the air of unashamed kitsch doesn't diminish. They're wearing matching school uniforms, monochrome trousers, blazer and tie combinations which are utterly camp and effortlessly stylish.
From the moment he walks on – last, of course – their singer Howlin' Pelle Almqvist brings the aura of ironic self-aggrandisement which no self-disrespecting rock '* roll band should be without. "Does this band really sound this good?" he gasps after just the fourth song, "Walk Idiot Walk". "Good, because otherwise the last 15 years of my life have been wasted. But they haven't, because the Hives are f-ing great." The crowd, for the most part, are taken to agree with him loudly.
Almqvist is an exceptional, exciting frontman, and each of the time-honoured stage tricks he pulls is committed and nervous in equal measure. The splits he dives into look to be reconsidered halfway down, while his microphone-flinging is somewhat lame. The way he springs the mic-stand back to attention with his foot is quite cool though, and going walkabout amidst the crowd in a venue of this size is to be admired.
The best thing about the Hives, however – and what sets them apart from the majority of their younger rivals – is how effortlessly they still manage to flog a single trick and make it sound fresh and exciting.
"Hate To Say I Told You So", "Tick Tick Boom", "Main Offender" and "Die, All Right!" are highlights of a thrilling set, and Almqvist's farewell – "We love you almost as much as you love us" – will one day be this band's epitaph.Reuse content