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Review: The Hives @ Bristol O2 Academy

Returning after an extended 11-year hiatus, Swedish rock band The Hives are back with a vengeance. 

By Susie Long, Music Subeditor

Since The Hives supported Arctic Monkeys at Ashton Gate last year, Bristol has been buzzing about the band. Having formed in the 1990s, and celebrating elements of both classic and garage-rock, The Hives have achieved a timeless quality to their music - one which seems to align undeniably well with the Bristol music scene. And so, when the band announced their return to Bristol - this time to the O2 Academy - it was unsurprisingly a “must-see” show. 

The support for this show, Bad Nerves, was the perfect opening act. A punk outfit from Leeds, and confessing themselves that The Hives had been a great influence on their music, Bad Nerves brought an energetic, full-out performance that felt perfectly curated for the audience. Playing a set full of “fast as f**k music,” and blending popular songs such as ‘Baby Drummer’ with some brilliant unreleased tracks, Bad Nerves served as the ultimate hypemen for the night’s main event. I just wish I’d come across this band sooner! The band are heading off on their US tour soon, before returning to play Reading and Leeds Festival in the summer - I’d catch them if you can! Alongside this, their sophomore album, Still Nervous, is out on 31st May and definitely should have a spot on your release radar. 

After an exceptional set from Bad Nerves, the crowd was more than ready for The Hives. Entering to Chopin’s funeral march, and kitted out in their trademark black and white suits that glow in the dark, The Hives’ stage presence was incomparable. Launching into ‘Bogus Operandi’ - the opening track from their newest album The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons - it became obvious very quickly that this was going to be an absolutely phenomenal show. Not only are The Hives great musically, but they are clearly legends in terms of performance and showmanship.

My friend and I - as the music nerds that we are - often resort to the “best frontman” debate, and time and again The Hives’ frontman “Howlin’” Pelle Almqvist ends up in the mix. Since seeing him and the band live at the O2 Academy, it’s safe to say that I am an advocate for his spot on that list. With the perfect blend of eccentricity and professionalism, Howlin’ Pelle knew how to work the crowd - and how to make the crowd work for him. It takes a certain skill to keep an audience engaged in the way that The Hives do - especially in songs with limited lyrics like ‘Come On’ - but the band had us in the palms of their hands.

There were so many standout moments from this show, but one that I have to acknowledge is the transition between 2000s fan-favourite ‘Hate To Say I Told You So’ and The Death of Randy Fitzsimmons track ‘Trapdoor Solution’. Starting strong with ‘Hate To Say I Told You So,’ The Hives highlighted the iconic, cult-like status of their earlier albums, with the whole audience singing the basslines back to the band. Then, almost as if to emphasise their continued relevance in the modern rock music landscape, the band moved into their new work - complete with screaming guitars, helicopter-ing microphones, and drums so loud you could feel them in your bones. The love for The Hives at this moment was palpable and proved to everyone that, despite taking a break of over a decade, the band were firmly solidified as legends in their field. 

After an electrifying set, rounded off by a version of ‘Tick Tick Boom’ lasting an impressive sixteen minutes, The Hives strolled off the stage accompanied by Carly Simon’s ‘Nobody Does It Better’. Not only was this a refreshingly comedic ending to the show, but I think that, in that moment, I and many others truly agreed with the sentiment.

Featured Image: Bisse Bengtsson

Have you ever seen The Hives perform live?