The Hives, Refused bring two kinds of Swedish intensity to the Fox Theater

The Hives at the Fox Theater, May 28th, 2019. Photos by Michelle Shiers

The Hives are one of those punk-rock bands who can crawl out from under a rock kicking and screaming as if they hadn’t missed a single beat of braggadocio. Earlier this month they released a new track, aptly titled “I’m Alive” — the first new song since they released “Blood Red Moon” in 2015 and almost two decades after “Veni Vidi Vicious,” the 2000 album that made them favorites during the post-punk revival. Now working on a new album, their first in seven years, the Swedish boasters joined fellow Swedes Refused on the North American “Scream Team Tour,” with their second to last show Tuesday night at the Fox Theater in Pomona.

The sharply-dressed quintet opened their set with a good mix and a quick fix of their earlier albums. Starting with “Come On” from “Lex Hives,” the riffy “Walk Idiot Walk” from “Tyrannosaurus Hives” and then the screeching “Main Offender” from 2000, they wasted no time getting sweaty. Singer Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist almost immediately crowd-surfed, peacocked and strutted the stage in his signature Jagger-esque pace as he incessantly coaxed the audience to be louder and louder. Guitarist Nicholaus Arson also roamed the stage making maniacal faces at the first few rows, spitting his guitar pick into the crowd and helping with screaming vocal duties along with guitarist Vigilante Carlstroem.

The Hives satiated the audience with two new songs, the upbeat banger “Paint a Picture” and the snarling “Good Samaritan.” One song after another, the rising audience energy mirrored the rise in bravado. Pelle jumped on the side monitors, putting his hand to his ear calling out to “ladies and gentlemen” inciting screams and jumping off stage to sing with security at his heels.

What the Hives may lack in song length, they make up for in between-song bombast. Howlin’ Pelle would take time between each number to flex some pompous goading. He joked. “I have a gnawing feeling inside that you’re going to help me get rid of right now. It’s the feeling that we should have played Los Angeles. [Audience booing.] Well, fucking prove it then!” During “Won’t Be Long,” the band went into a stage-freeze for a minute or two as the crowd clapped them back in. They then closed their main set with their most self-indulgent and defiant hit “Hate To Say I Told You So,” spitting, shrieking and all.

Unabashed pretension and blowing hot air are all part of the Hives’ schtick and their audience seem more than happy to lap it up. The band returned for two more songs starting with “I’m Alive” and then closing the night with the explosive sing-along “Tick Tick Boom” during which Pelle insisted everyone sit down, chastising those who didn’t, then making everyone rise again into a blazing punk fervor. The band came together for a sweat-soaked bow and even called their Ninja-dressed roadies to join in for the send-off.

The Hives were preceded by Refused, who also performed an energetic set of songs spanning their 30-year career. Refused’s set certainly had less levity than the Hives’, as they did more angry thrashing than camp strutting. Singer Dennis Lyxzen jumped around tossing the microphone, falling to his knees, kicking and shouting about the shape of punk to come.

It wouldn’t have been a punk show without a requisite rant about capitalism, during which Lyxzen gave a verbal lashing to Americans saying, “I’ve never seen so much brainwashing, I’ve never seen so much propaganda as your fucking country. All you talk about is democracy but as long as there’s no economical democracy we will never be free, alright? As long as the fucking 1% dictates everything in our life we will never be free, we will never be equal. We will never have fucking democracy no matter how much we Westerners like to spread democracy with terror and bombs, alright?” While there were a lot of cheers and whistles, it started to seem the America-bashing went on for maybe a moment too long. Still, Refused ended on a vitriolic punk high with a floor-clearing mosh pit and a renewed faith in music spreading an aggressive message again.

L.A.’s Bleached opened the night.

Photos by Michelle Shiers