NEW YORK — The Hives have buzz, for sure — a lot of it provided by their own lead singer.
Howlin' Pelle Almqvist prefaced just about every song Wednesday night by first singing his band's praises, telling the Irving Plaza crowd that the group was about to play everyone's favorite song — even when it was a track off Tyrannosaurus Hives, just released the day prior. In Almqvist's view, every Hives song is our favorite, or should be. And he might be right, because judging by the audience's reaction, the Hives seem to be living up to their own hype.
Almqvist's strutting self-regard is different from the flat-out egomania of Prince (who runs a videotape of his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame before his shows). It's delivered with a twinkle in the eye, so it's amusing. Almqvist targeted nonpaying VIPs in the balcony for good-natured derision, and when he wanted an eruption of audience screaming and clapping, he simply demanded it.
The Hives' show is basic, but it works — as do the band's songs, which may seem simple until you pay attention to all the tricky things the two guitarists are doing. When Almqvist wasn't howling the band's praises, the musical focus was on Nicholaus Arson and Vigilante Carlstroem splitting a riff apart on "Walk Idiot Walk" (the album's first single) and leaning on the off beat, then turning it around, on the chorus of "A Little More for Little You."
The band's retro riffs usually recall the Sonics, the New York Dolls and early Stooges, but now there are also suggestions of '50s rock, '60s psychedelia and '80s new wave (see "Hives Album Preview: Out Of The Garage, Into The Laboratory"). Pummeling through their one-hour set (which also included the hits "Hate to Say I Told You So" and "Main Offender") with machinelike precision, the Hives are maybe the tightest garage band ever to play at the speeds at which they play — all while wearing neat black-and-white suits, white leather spats and Colonel Sanders-style bowties.
And then there's sex appeal. You might not guess it from Hives photos, but onstage, the band's heavyset bass-and-guitar component is offset by the much cuter guitar/drums/vocals cohort. When the boyish Almqvist spoke between songs, it was with a sort of Memphis-Elvis drawl (plus an ever-so-slight Swedish accent), and his smart-aleck grin made him seem like Ferris Bueller channeling Mick Jagger or James Brown. And no space could contain him, as he swung his mic, crawled up the speakers, threw himself into the crowd and encouraged fans to grab him.
Not that they needed encouraging.
The Hives' tour moves on to Boston Friday and wraps up early next month in San Diego (see "The Hives To Launch Tour The Day New LP Drops").
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.