Live Review: The Hives / Bad Nerves – Manchester Academy, Manchester 06.04.2024

Jack Flynn

If you’re into frenetic 90 miles an hour garage punk rock with hooks at every turn, then I can’t think of a better pairing than newcomers Bad Nerves and Swedish indie punk icons, The Hives.

Opening the show are rising Essex punks Bad Nerves, who deliver an intense set of power pop melodies above a bed of chunky overdriven chords and a relentless backbeat.  Bad Nerves are one of those hard working bands that are seemingly on one colossal never-ending tour, having closed out 2023 across the US with riff rock heavyweights Royal Blood, before joining The Hives and then swiftly back across the pond for their own headline US tour starting next week.

The Essex band’s music is fast, intense and incredibly catchy. The guitars have got the defiant crackle of early Ramones, but the distinct, high-register vocal tones of lead singer Bobby Nerves add a modern twist.

Debut album songs like Baby Drummer, Can’t Be Mine and Radio Punk were real highlights, alongside plenty of new material set to feature on their upcoming album Still Nervous, which I can’t wait to hear. After joking that the next song was going to be a slow one, before shouting “Fuck the slow ones!” as they tear into latest single You Got The Nerve, whose insolent lyrical repetition of “Hey! You! You got the nerve!” has been lodged in my head ever since.

Once Bad Nerves left the stage to huge applause, a pair of actual Ninjas, wrapped up in black robes obscuring all but their eyes, set about performing roadie duties to prepare the stage for the self-styled “Champagne of bands”. Clad in matching, glow in the dark, black and white suits, sartorial elegance being a trademark of the band since the beginning, they walked onstage to the bizarre choice of Chopin’s Funeral March. Clearly, not ones to take themselves too seriously, the stage banter from Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist had superb comic timing which expertly manoeuvred the crowd’s hype levels to maximum. Regularly referring to themselves, tongue in cheek, as “the greatest band of all time,” by the time they’d finished their performance, you’d be pretty well inclined to agree.

Their excellent new album “The Death Of Randy Fitzsimmons” made lots of appearances in the night’s epic 2-hour long setlist, with songs like the blistering garage riff rock of Bogus Operandi going down equally as well as older indie sleaze classics like Walk Idiot Walk. No show would be complete without the monster hit of Hate To Say I Told You So which saw Almqvist conducting the crowd like a human orchestra to recreate the iconic guitar riff.

Constantly taunting the crowd with the threat that they simply weren’t ready for what they were about to receive was one of Almqvist’s tactics. It’s impressive how he can be ironic and simultaneously whip the crowd up into a frenzy. For example, when asking where the crowd were on a scale of 1 to 10, the crowd naturally screamed “10!” And Almqvist retorts, “That’s silly, then there’s nowhere to go from there. You’re at an 8, you’re not ready for 10, it’s simply too dangerous!” But he ensured the crowd definitely got themselves to a 10 for the epic encore of Come On, Smoke & Mirrors and an explosive extended version of Tick Tick Boom.

The people of Manchester were there for a good time, and The Hives gave the people what they wanted. They are masters of their craft, giving the audience a bow as they exited the stage to the sound of Carly Simon’s Nobody Does It Better. An incredibly fun atmosphere and an epic setlist of indie rock classics from an era defining band.

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