About ten years ago I entertained a brief musical fork in the road. I was young and there was huge renaissance of garage pop rock. Bands with catchy grunge rhythms and unoriginal, ad-libbed names (fill in the blank: the ____s) were a dime a dozen. At the top of this pile of recycled sounds were a few standout bands: the White Stripes, the Strokes, the Vines and the Hives. I favored the latter two and so did enough other people that it became a constant debate about which band was better. I was forced to indulge in that same impossible choice: I only had enough money to buy one of their CDs from my local Best Buy. I forget why, but I chose the Hives’ Veni Vidi Vicious—I think the decision was reached through the “eenie meenie miney moe” process.
If only I had had the assistance of Pelle Almqvist in making my decision, it would have been much easier. Because, as the Hives’ lead singer concluded to a much obliging packed house at Terminal 5, there is only one answer to any question: “The Hives.”
“Who are we?” Almqvist asked. Of course, the response: “The Hives!” “Who are you?” he tested. “The Hives!” “Where are we?” he continued, smiling because the crowd was in the palm of his hand. “The Hives!” “What is the meaning of all this?” You get the picture.
It’s nothing new that Almqvist is quite the modest egomaniac and an ultra-entertaining showman. He begs for—no, demands—the audience’s applause whether it be for his demonstrative bows at the conclusion of every song or comical scare tactics: “We’re really vampires and we don’t just drink blood, we also take applause. So unless you want us to come down there.” He was fully stocked with quips for his between-song banter, at one point even attributing New York City’s scorching summer heat to his being in town. Almqvist may even do a better job working the crowd than fulfilling his main role as a vocalist.
Terminal 5 and the Hives are a match made in heaven. The band’s robust power chord progressions and up-tempo rhythms filled the club’s three stories perfectly. Spanning through its entire catalogue of records, the band sampled some of its greatest hits in addition to a few new tracks off of Lex Hives. Sporting top hats and full black and white tuxes (identical to the outfits worn on the front cover of that new release) Pelle and company opened with the thumping “Come On!”. By the third song, “Take Back The Toys,” guitarist Nicholaus Arson had already climbed the guardrail to play in the crowd. The set fully hit its stride with “Main Offender” about midway through and continued with more new songs like the doo wop-ish “Wait A Minute.” After a dozen songs, ending the set with rock radio mainstays “Hate To Say I Told You So” and “Tick Tick Boom,” the band took a quick retreat from the stage. The band finished with a three song encore—”Go Right Ahead,””Die, All Right!” and “Patrolling Days”—that paled in comparison the main set. But by that point, full of witty Pelle-isms and garage rock hits, a lackluster encore wasn’t going to make any difference to the very satisfied NYC crowd.