NEW YORK Holding on for dear life at the Bowery Ballroom on Wednesday night, watching what must surely be the most electrifying band in the world right now blowing a packed-out house of instant believers back on their quivering haunches, I kept wondering: Is there any other group anywhere that the Hives couldn't totally incinerate with the merest flick of their guitar picks?
The answer trust me on this is no.
But before we go any further: If you haven't already, go out right now and pick up a copy of the Hives' album Veni Vidi Vicious. I'll wait.
Okay, there. Now we're all on the same planet.
For years at least since the end of Nirvana discerning music lovers have longed for some great Savior Band to bust through and blow away all the gooey boy groups, tiresome teen divas, witless rap-metal oafs, you know the litany. The Hives, I'm willing to bet, are that band.
Because every song the Hives play is at the least a very good song. And a whole bunch of them are really great songs. And because they play them at about 180 miles a minute. In fact, they play faster than any band I can remember seeing back in the punk toilets of 1977. (By comparison, even the Ramones seem a little relaxed.)
But the Hives aren't sloppy, they don't thrash. They're almost supernaturally tight. At times, when they're whipping out yet another jaw-dropper from their bottomless arsenal of riffs, the razor-edged sonic detail they're able to achieve at such neck-snapping tempos seems more than merely human. Really! I mean, let's hear it for Chris Dangerous, Nicholaus Arson, Dr. Matt Destruction and Vigilante Carlstroem. (Did I mention they're Swedish?)
And while this is a band that's totally punked out in terms of pure rush, they're not drugged-up or drink-impaired or in any way unaware of exactly what they're doing. Their visual presentation is sleek and simple: black (shirts, pants) and white (ties, shoes, guitars). Their stage backdrop is very cute a giant U.S. flag with black-and-white stripes. In short, they look sharp something of an avant-garde stance these days.
Oh, and their lead singer. In Howlin' Pelle Almqvist great name! the Hives have the most flamboyant and charismatic frontman since ... oh, since Mick Jagger was but a pup and Mick Taylor was still playing guitar with the Rolling Stones. But Almqvist is funnier than Jagger: He prances, he preens and he shamelessly praises himself and his band at every possible interlude. ("New York you love the Hives!") He's a star even if you've never heard of him. And believe me, you soon will.
But enough of this gush. The Hives are ferocious on record, but you haven't even begun to live until you experience them live. I think they may herald a musical sea-change (at least let's hope). Because they're the real deal. At last.
For another take on the Hives' live show, check out "The Hives And The Mooney Suzuki Rally New Garage Order."
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.