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Concert review: The Hives take a dip in their tuxedos at the Boulevard Pool

Hives frontman Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist
Photo: Claire Hart

The Details

The Hives
four stars
September 13, Boulevard Pool

Go ahead, make fun of The Hives. Crack a joke about them being one of the myriad “The _______” garage bands to latch onto The Strokes’ coattails in the early ’00s. Smirk as you retort, “They’re still around?” You just haven’t seen them live yet.

On record, the garage-punk chords and yelping howls may not break any conventions, but there’s a reason Spin magazine dubbed them “the best live band in the world.” After laying low since 2007’s Black and White Album, the Swedish quintet returned this spring with a new record, Lex Hives, and a couple of explosive comeback shows at Coachella that sent crowds and critics into a frenzy.

I was at both of those shows, so when they played the Cosmopolitan’s Boulevard Pool on Thursday, I thought I knew what to expect; how delightfully wrong I was. Here’s a rundown of the rock 'n' roll mayhem:

Quote of the night: “I love a lot of cities in this world, but in no other city can I play rock and roll on a rooftop at a pool party while looking at the Eiffel Tower. Las Vegas, thank you for existing.” –frontman Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist

Vegas spectacular: Of all the rock acts that have played the Pool this season, The Hives are perhaps the most “Vegas”—they’re true showmen whose songs stand out not because of their inherent quality but because of how they’re performed. Take “Patrolling Days,” a solid, catchy tune from their new album that live could be sufficiently executed with some struts and head-banging. Instead, it started with Almqvist jumping off the drum set into a scissor kick; his brother, guitarist Nicholaus Arson, tore at his instrument with a look like a mad scientist, before taking a swig of beer and spitting it into the crowd; meanwhile, drummer Chris Dangerous threw his drumstick in the air repeatedly without missing a beat; the whole thing ended with Almqvist on his knees, hunched and belting into the mic stand James Brown style—you were just waiting for someone to bring out the cape.

The Hives with DJ Mike Attack at The Cosmopolitan Pool

Crowd control: Nothing spoils a great show like an apathetic crowd, but luckily you’ll never find one at a Hives concert—mostly because The Hives won’t allow it. The evening had all the makings for a low-energy audience: muggy weather, cramped conditions (see below), people who came because they could get in free and/or who only know “Hate to Say I Told You So.” But Almqvist and Co. refused to settle, climbing the gates and speakers to hound the crowds into jumping and screaming. At one point, Almqvist refused to start a song until the crowd screamed loud enough; at another, he made everyone—even people in the pool—sit down, then jump up together at his command.

Party foul: The Cosmopolitan, for reasons unknown, didn’t drain the Boulevard Pool for standing room as they usually do for these gigs. As a result, the crowd was pressed up against the stage and around the sides, with many in the back eventually being forced to take their shoes off and wade into the pool. Anyone who wanted to get a decent view or close to the music had to deal with sardine-can conditions that made it all but impossible to jump or dance without risking falling in the pool. When things did get rowdy, as with the drunk guy splashing water on everyone, or the other drunk guy getting aggressive with the crowd, security did nothing about it.

Mosh pool: Of course, getting soaked was inevitable. While the crowd tried to stave off Almqvist’s commands to get in the pool, it’s hard to resist the wishes of a tall Swede in a tuxedo with the dance moves of James Brown. Around 100 people got in towards the end of the set, dancing, moshing and kicking up waves that drenched everyone standing by the stage from head to toe. This was initially annoying if you were planning to go out in public after the show, but by the time The Hives got in the pool—tuxedos and all—it was more like a badge of honor.

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Andrea Domanick is a reporter covering arts, entertainment and the behind the scenes stories of life in Las Vegas. Before ...

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