The Hives w/ The Donnas | 02.29.08

thehives.jpgWith the Hives, the embracing of rock n’ roll’s sorely neglected, gloriously over-the-top past is the whole point, a sort of reminder of why you started liking the stuff in the first place.

 

 

Riviera Theater, Chicago

 

The Donnas and the Hives would seem a weird pairing, what with the former being four California girls throwing back to the decadent days of hair metal and the latter being a bunch of Swedish guys in matching suits resurrecting garage rock with a punkish flair, but they do have at least one thing in common: a knack for ridiculously high energy live sets. The crowd responded to this energy in kind, and though the Hives were most definitely the champions of the evening, there were still huge pockets of amped up fans clustered close to the stage during the Donnas quick-and-dirty 45 minute set, screaming along to every song as they pumped their fists in approval. As singer Brett Anderson joked, "Who knew Chicago was our second home?"

The Donnas fired up their set with "Bitchin’" and "Don’t Wait Up For Me," the one-two punch that opens up their latest record Bitchin’ and an early warning that the set would be packed to the gills with brand new material. Ultimately, the band fired through 8 songs from Bitchin’ and 3 from their commercial breakthrough, 2002’s Spend the Night, while completely ignoring their other 5 albums, including 2004’s vastly underrated Gold Medal. The new songs most definitely benefited from the live setting, with even some of that album’s lesser moments like the cheesy shoutalong "Girl Talk" proving infectious.

The Kiss-esque "Don’t Wait Up For Me" proved a suitable starter, but it was Spend the Night‘s "Who Invited You" that kicked the show into high gear, and from there it rarely let up. "Wasted" proved far more driving and brutal in its live incarnation, inspiring a noisy crowd singalong followed by a vicious solo from guitarist Allison Robertson, her long blonde locks cascading over her face as her lightning fast fingerwork did the talking. Though the material was new, it still concentrated on the party-hardy anthems that are the all-female foursome’s stock in trade, promising to "smoke you out" while declaring "Can’t say no/ I lose control/ ‘Cuz with you I’m like an animal" over tight-as-a-drum hair metal riffage. Anderson oozed sex appeal in a sleeveless pink Harley Davidson t-shirt and skintight black jeans, rocking her hips and tossing her hair back and forth to the band’s lockstep rhythm as she taunted the crowd to "Take It Off" in the set’s undisputed highlight.

The solid-as-a-rock set had only two missteps, when muddy sound deadened the impact of the Def Leppard-ish "Save Me" and the normally dependable "5 O’clock in the Morning." That the latter served as the set closer robbed the overall set of some of its oomph, but the song recovered with an extended coda that proved yet another showcase for Robertson’s 6-string hysterics.

After a lengthy set change that saw an enormous "Hives" neon sign hung from the stage’s backdrop, the crowd was coaxed back into the theater with the piped in (and slightly grating) faux-horror movie score instrumental "A Stroll Through Hive Manor Corridors." Once all the players were in place, the band burst into "Hey Little World," a track from their latest The Black and White Album whose performance was so white hot that guitarist Nicholaus Arson tossed his pick into the audience then blew on his fingers to cool them down. The follow-up, "Try It Again," opened with a sort of duel between Arson and fellow guitarist Vigilante Carlstroem, but it was the machine gun percussion that proved drummer Chris Dangerous the winner.

Though the band took the stage in sharp matching suits—black with white edges on the lapels and black-and-white striped ties, a la their most recent album cover—most had shed their jackets and ties by the time their breakthrough hit "Hate To Say I Told You So" entered the setlist halfway through. Despite overheating, the Hives engine kept chugging, with even the sole down-tempo moment—"Diabolic Scheme," from 2004’s Tyrannosaurus Hives—keeping the crowd red-lined. The Hives, like the Donnas, leaned heavily on their latest album (also playing 8 new cuts), but with more time to play with, they peppered in plenty of old favorites. The snotty punk rocker "Main Offender" was welcomed by the jumping, screaming throng as singer Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist pranced across the stage with a hand-on-hip strut that my concert cohort for the evening joked "was old when Steven Tyler stole it from Mick Jagger." With the Hives, though, the embracing of rock n’ roll’s sorely neglected, gloriously over-the-top past is the whole point, a sort of reminder of why you started liking the stuff in the first place.

Wrapping up the main set with a positively explosive run through "Tick Tick Boom," the Hives didn’t leave the crowd wanting for long before Dangerous returned to the stage solo, playing thirty seconds or so of metronome-perfect drums before the rest of the band rushed the stage for the rowdy "Bigger Hole To Fill." Almqvist responded to the crowd’s boundless energy with his standard hyperbole, howling "I’d like to say something I don’t say every night: you’re the best crowd we’ve ever played to, and I’d like to dedicate this song to youuuuu," as the band launched into "Return the Favour," the song’s chant-worthy "Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh!" chorus supplying the crowd with something to scream along to, finally wearing themselves out just in time for the concert’s end.

Before arriving at the show, I wasn’t sure which of the two bands would be headlining the evening. After seeing the show, not only was putting the Hives in the closing spot the right decision, but frankly, I would feel sorry for any band unfortunate enough to have to follow in their formidable footsteps. Chicago loved every single second of the band’s 80-or-so minute set, and Sweden’s finest were more than willing to share the love with Chicago. After all, as Almqvist joked, "It’s cold, wet, and miserable…just like home." | Jason Green

 

The Complete Donnas Setlist:

Bitchin’

Don’t Wait Up For Me

Who Invited You

Wasted

Smoke You Out

Girl Talk

What Do I Have To Do

Like An Animal

Save Me

Take It Off

5 O’clock in the Morning

The Not-Quite-Complete Hives Setlist:

A Stroll Through Hive Manor Corridors

Hey Little World

Try It Again

Die, All Right!

???

Walk Idiot Walk

???

Hate To Say I Told You So

Diabolic Scheme

Won’t Be Long

You Dress Up For Armageddon

You Got It All…Wrong

Main Offender

Tick Tick Boom

Encore:

Bigger Hole To Fill

Two-Timing Touch and Broken Bones

Return the Favour

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