What happened to the Hives, the Swedish five-piece band known for wearing matching suits and being part of a so-called garage rock revival trend that made a splash in the early 2000s, alongside artists like the Detroit White Stripes? It’s been over a decade since the band last came this way, to a venue that no longer exists (Clutch Cargo’s).
According to the elaborate history of The death of Randy Fitzsimmons, the group’s first studio album in 11 years, released this summer, the Hives were reeling from the death of their manager Svengali, who reportedly formed the group when they were teenagers and wrote all of their songs. In reality, there is no Randy Fitzsimmons; The Hives were facing various crises, including financial mismanagement by their accounting company that resulted in a court ordering the band to pay $3 million to fellow Swedes the Cardigans and surgery and a lengthy convalescence for drummer Chris Dangerous. The band continued to tour when they could, including a 2019 Australian tour with AC/DC. Somewhere in there, there was also a pandemic.
With a new record to sell, the band embarked on a U.S. tour of mid-sized venues, including a stop at Detroit’s 400-capacity El Club on Saturday. The packed crowd, largely made up of millennials and Gen Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist. (Cut choices: “We play very admirably”; “Detroit, you take this rock ‘n’ roll like the desert misses the rain”; “What is the biggest venue in Detroit? We could have played there if we wanted it.”)
“That one sounded rough at soundcheck,” he said of one of the new songs. “But just when we needed it, we all came together. I’m sure there’s a lesson somewhere.
Like the White Stripes, the Hives always had a postmodern vibe, playing with ideas of artifice and authenticity while producing undeniably fun rock ‘n’ roll anthems. And at times, Almqvist can seem like a walking parody of rockstar clichés, as if he has a quota of well-rehearsed cues to hit, from careful mic swirls to awkward crowd surfing. Yet that’s the beauty of this group. They never intended to reinvent anything, only to have a good time doing it and to do it in impeccable style.
Olivia Jean – a local artist with her own penchant for rock ‘n’ roll style and who married Jack White of the White Stripes on stage at a concert at the Masonic Temple last year – opened the show.
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