The Hives, Dune Rats @ Forum Theatre, Melbourne (07/01/2013)

Brisbane’s Dune Rats aren’t the first band you think of in such a theatre as the Forum. A band that doesn’t exactly translate in recorded form, Dune Rats were raw and uninhibited; a throwback to the ‘90s with a thrashing rendition of ‘Blister in the Sun’ to hammer home the point. To the uninitiated in most other settings, the three could have easily been passed off as pointless noise, but given the night’s headliners the crowd was up for a bit of playfulness and the Dune Rats delivered.

Tuxedoes, bizarre expressions, high kicks, jumps from drums and so, so much narcissism – that is The Hives. But no matter how many times they throw it all out there on stage, they always come across as kings. And for good reason. It’s been a while since their last album, but with their new record Lex Hives in tow this time around, the Swedish five were up for as big a party as ever.

Few songs could find credibility when the lyrics consist of almost 60 repetitions of “Come On”, but the oh-so-aptly named ‘Come On’ sure did make a great punch of an introduction, led off by Chris Dangerous’ stick twirling and exaggerated beats and made complete by lead man Pelle Almqvist and his matchless rock vocals. The Hives presence was immediately felt, with the floor of the Forum erupting into praise for the classiest dressed rock band there is.

Praise was the most suitable word, as from the moment Almqvist first addressed his congregation, his performance was sermon. And it was a Sunday after all; though not for Almqvist and co: “We’re from the other side of the world so we’re upside down and it’s Saturday in my body.” The man was, as he demonstrates time and time again, revelling in his own ego to the delight of those adoring him. “Number two is there and number three is there, so what does that make me?” he asked in his self-introduction.

And when he said he owned the crowd there was complete truth in it. With every wave of the head came a sea of clapping arms and with every sideways glance a flood of roars. Even though show after show has proven The Hives work from a formula, the formula clearly hasn’t faded. The curveball of the night came about halfway through, as the band started ‘Wait a Minute’ (which turned out to be quite ironic) and one eager crowd surfer fell right over the barrier only to knock himself out cold. The accident halted proceedings, while the band gave the guy their full attention – an upset that cut the set clean in half, but showed the band was dedicated to their hardest rocking fans.

The night’s setlist kept pulses racing; half new songs and the rest greatest hits. From Lex Hives, ‘Take Back The Toys’ was full of priceless posing from Nicholaus Arson and seemed a new favourite amongst older company. ‘My Time Is Coming’ demonstrated Almqvist’s diabolical side in its intro and finished up with a sound checking of the crowd’s volume; Almqvist keeping the cheers going until he was satisfied. Finally, ‘Patrolling Days’ cemented itself as a sure fire hit to close with – it’s foot stomping chant of a chorus another standout.

‘Hate To Say I Told You So’ received the most rapture of the night, with the crowd tearing the Forum a new one, and ‘Tick Tick Boom’ proved yet again why it’s the staple closer; Almqvist dividing the crowd down the middle, getting everyone to sit and parading himself right down to the sound desk before summoning the masses back to their feet for a big finish.

In the end it’s hardly worth summing The Hives up when Almqvist does it so well himself: “It’s rhetorical question time: Do The Hives rule?” Sublime showmanship meets blistering rock and roll, The Hives gave Melbourne a show to keep and brag about. And they themselves were mighty glad Melbourne got to see them get “1000 out of 5” – that’s the best they’ve ever gotten.