Hives/Idlewild at the Lost Weekend : London Brixton Academy

Two great bands on one bill...

“We’ve been to the Youessovvaay to play some shows” shrieks head [a]Hives[/a] Pelle Almqvist with rare modesty at the top of his band’s set at this NME-sponsored show. “What,” he asks, thrusting his mic like a rapier at the crowd, “have you been doing?”

Massive here, now big over there on the back of sold-out gigs and rave reviews, there was never any doubt that America would fall for these hot-blooded Swedes who, if they’re not the sharpest rock’n’roll band in the world today, do an impeccable impersonation of how one should behave. How could anyone resist a group resembling a mafioso Monkees fronted by a Quentin Blake caricature of Mick Jagger in his pouting, pigeon-chested prime?

If [a]Hives[/a] are the righteous, cartoony saviours of rock (and they are,

judging by the numbers arriving tonight clad in regulation black and white),

then with their latest album, [a]Idlewild[/a]

are rapidly scaling the same peak

from a different, more worthy angle. Adored, worryingly enough, by Radio 2

and[a]Bryan Adams[/a], the Scots troupers have dispensed with the harsh toilet-trainer [a]Sonic Youth[/a] tactics of old and hit upon a rich, melodic seam that owes as much to ‘Green’-era REM as it does vintage[a]Idlewild[/a].

But any suspicions that [a]Idlewild[/a]

might be enjoying their new-found glory are

roundly crushed by an earnest, charisma-free performance; it’s odd that such

a literate and articulate group still refuse to engage their audience between songs. What is clear, however, is that ‘When I Argue I See Shapes’, formerly[a]Idlewild[/a]

’s finest moment, pales when they close with mercurial new single ‘American English’, an anthem that could well prove their Stateside


By contrast, [a]Hives[/a] amp up the brightness and volume to such an absurd

level that we’d need industrial eyewear to be shielded from their cocksure

brilliance. In ‘Main Offender’ and ‘Hate To Say I Told You So’ they have

Ramones-dumb classics in the use-once-and-destroy mould, while Pelle – the beautiful bastard lovechild of Little Richard and Freddie Mercury – is

a freakish modern icon who moves like Nureyev but hollers, fittingly, like Iggy. “There ain’t nothing more of a crowd-pleaser than [a][/a]!” he crows before ‘aka IDIOT’, running a hand through that glossy helmet of hair.

Madison Square Garden won’t know what’s hit it.

Piers Martin