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Three Nights Ago: Hives and Maroon 5 at Toyota Center

Maroon 5, the Hives
Friday October 26, 2007
Toyota Center

Better Than: Maroon 5. Oh, wait. They were there.

Download: The first six songs from the Hives’ new Black and White Album.

Maroon 5 may have received top billing, but Friday night belonged to the Hives.

Clad in black suits, white lapels and black and white ties, the Hives churned out 30 minutes of tightly wound ruckus, consisting of both old and new material. Guitarist Nicholaus Arson mugged and posed for press photographers while drummer Chris Dangerous tossed his drumsticks into the air and the audience. Frontman “Howlin’” Pete Almqvist commanded the stage with Jaggeresque prancing, David Lee Roth-worthy kicks and leaps off the drum kit, and swinging of his microphone by its chord.

Without a doubt, the Hives know how to work a crowd. Clearly, in their own minds, they are rock stars who have already arrived, and the rest of the world is just catching up.

Their set included “Walk Idiot Walk” from 2004’s Tyrannosaurus Hives, “Try It Again” and “Tick Tick Boom” from this month’s Black and White Album and “Hate to Say I Told You So” from 2000’s Veni Vidi Viscious. Almqvist called the latter a “present” to the Houston audience and later remarked, “You people are by far the best audience we’ve ever played to. And I don’t say that every night.”

The Swedes’ most inventive moment was a choreographed mid-song pause that lasted about ten seconds. The entire band froze onstage, sans music, in a black and white tableau, which ended with Almqvist making faces at the audience before launching back into the song. The end of the set found Almqvist blowing a noisy kiss and announcing, “We have been the Hives—and don’t you forget it!”

Photos by Linda Leseman

By contrast, the appearance of the headliners seemed anticlimactic after the Hives. Maroon 5 was upstaged, literally and figuratively, by the giant glowing “M” behind them, which generated more energy than the band. Nevertheless, the hordes of screaming female fans seemed not to notice.

Lead singer Adam Levine looked confused when playing the guitar and performed more confidently with the mic in one hand and limp-wristed dance moves in the other. The crowd responded with enthusiasm to his falsetto call-and-response “yeahs” and to the respectable solos from guitarist James Valentine. Also miraculous was native Austinite Mickey Madden’s ability to play bass despite the mop of hair in his eyes.

M5 promoted familiar material as well as new tunes off their 2007 album It Won’t Be Soon Before Long. However, after the charisma and prowess of their opening act, the L.A. quintet seemed little more than a boy band with instruments. Fans who turned out to see the headliners were surely appeased, but one would hope they also took notice of the band who owned the night. The Hives already know how good they are.

As if to drive that point home, Almqvist confidently remarked, “It feels like we’re doin’ pretty well, wouldn’t you say so?” – Linda Leseman

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Critic’s Notebook

Personal Bias: Guess which of these two bands I like.

Random Detail: Almqvist does not have a heavy Swedish accent.

By the Way: You have probably seen the Hives performing “Tick Tick Boom” in this Nike commercial.

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