Glastonbury Review: The Hives

June 23, 2023

When The Hives emerge on The Other Stage in matching monochrome suits, marked by musical notes and lightning bolts – not to mention giant white letters that spell ‘H.I.V.E.S’ placed on the stage –, you know this isn’t going to be subtle. This isn’t going to be modest. This is going to be a neon-lit, capital lettered, bona fide, “SHOW”. And what a show it is.

Frontman Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist paces the stage like he’s just been thawed backstage from cryogenic state and no one’s told him it’s no longer the garage rock revival. He’s clapping like a Swedish Mick Jagger and swinging his mic (thankfully evading the bloody injury that he recently sustained when this move back-fired and whacked him in the face). His trademark deadpan patter is razor sharp (“We’d like to thank all the bands that warmed you up for us, and thank all the bands who will cool you down after,” he says with tongue rooted in cheek), and his band back him with quite some might.

Showcasing new material at a Glastonbury festival set might sound like the sort of gamble you’d get from a bleary-eyed casino dweller well past their home time, it’s a dice roll that pays off. The crowd lap these songs up. It’s helped by the fact that they rank comfortably alongside the best cuts from their back catalogue. Bogus Operandi not so much starts things off, but scissor kicks the monitor. They close with another newie, Corporate Shutdown, which is arguably even better: all furious riffage and fuzzy bassline pulsating through the field.

That’s not to say that the old favourites don’t fizz and spit with evergreen vigour, because they do. Hate To Say I Told You So is predictably riotous. So too Main Offender. Tick, Tick, Tick Boom provides Pelle with the opportunity to invite the crowd to “sit down” before leaping maniacally for the song’s final straight. It might be a tad cliché, but it works. Whichever way you dice it, The Hives deliver a masterclass in old school, RnR showmanship, drawing on every lesson learned through twenty-five years of diligent stage craft. It helps that the band have a bag of brilliant tunes to match.

Somehow, they still sound like our “New Favourite Band”, and like a thrift store vinyl discovery destined to dominate your record player. The Hives are back. And they’re not just running through the motions for an easy payday: they mean business. They’re here for your ears. Hand them over.

Photos by David Court

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