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Witnessing a concert by The Hives is to witness The Pelle Almqvist Show: the 33-year-old frontman, whose stage persona combines the peacocky swagger of Mick Jagger and the theatrics of a manic, 19th-century circus ringleader, commands — no, demands — full attention from his audience.
“This stage might not be big enough for my ego,” he snarled during Thursday’s “secret” show at New York City’s Webster Hall, which reserved its 300-capacity “Studio” for the occasion.
“Feel my hand, ladies and gentleman,” quoth Almqvist, offering his sweaty palm to the crowd, his Swedish accent shrill and Schwarzenegger-ish, as if amplified for comic effect. “I want to see you sweat and naked!”
The audience howled in return, soaking up the showman’s antics: he is undeniably charismatic, engagingly obnoxioius, handsome-prep-gone-bad, a retro rock star. Coming on the heels of an acclaimed, buzzy performance at the Coachella Music Festival, Almquvist and his fellow hives — including brother Nicholaus Arson (backup vocal, guitar) and bassist Dr. Matt Destruction — collectively delivered another energetic performance to promote the cult Swedish garage-rock band’s fifth studio album, Lex Hives, which drops June 4.
The group, sporting top hats and Victorian-era black-and-white suits, opened with “Come On!” — a call to arms, get-up-and-dance track from the record, their first in five years. They also played new material including “Wait a Minute,” which has an irresistibly catch refrain, and “Patrolling Days,” wherein Almquist belts, “My patrolling days are over, and I’ve shot nobody since!” Also: “Go Right Ahead,” where he repeatedly whacked himself on the head.
“Do you love our new album?!?!?” he intoned, announcing he would “dedicate it to myself because I am, but none of you is … Pelle Almqvist!”
Meanwhile, sibling Arson, during the band’s early-aughts hit “Hate to Say I Told You So,” strutted out to the front of the stage, where he proceeded to make creepily intense eye contact with ecstatic concertgoers, at one point licking his lips and shooting a guitar pick out of his mouth in a fans’ direction.
Hey, when it’s The Pelle Almqvist Show, you gotta stand out somehow.
Photo by Gregg Greenwood
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