Just for the record, I must state that there is no bigger fan of Noel Gallagher than myself. Indeed, my unhealthy idolization of the man's prolific songwriting drew me to the Calling Festival itself. Having already seen him perform with his High Flying Birds, as well as attending an intimate BBC Radio 4 set of his and actually bumping into him on Regent Street, I had to complete the full package and see him headline a festival. As a fellow guitar player and songwriter myself, he is my Lennon to the Liam.
Before I discuss The Hives, it is worthwhile mentioning the other big acts. Echo & The Bunnymen were superb. Unlike the acts that would follow, their stage was bland, with the band performing in front of a black backdrop. Despite this, their performance remained uncompromised. 'Killing Moon' and 'Nothing Lasts Forever' went down incredibly well, delivering exactly what the crowd wanted. Contrasted to Echo's plain stage deco was Ryan Adam's cluster of 80's inspired items, ranging from arcade games to vending machines to globes to giant amps and even a tiger. Unfortunately for Ryan, the crowd seemed unresponsive to his set. Aside from the few Ryan Adams hardcore fans who were dotted around the crowd, drenched in Ryan Adams attributed clothing and were singing along with every word, the crowd on the whole seemed indifferent and almost bored.
Nevertheless, it was Modest Mouse who were the unfortunate victims of the Calling Festival. Having arrived with loaned gear, as their instruments were stuck in Calais, the band's unfamiliarity with their temporary gear came across glaringly. Isaac Brock, the band's lead singer, who was quick to blame their 'liberated gear' for their performance showed no effort in hiding his frustration, anger and annoyance during the set. Whilst there were groups of Modest Mouse fans bouncing around, the rest of the crowd found it hard to enjoy the set when the band were visibly resenting it.
Enter The Hives. Just before the band marched onto stage, I overheard a Swedish bloke tell a girl that The Hives are the best live band since The Rolling Stones. Being a massive Stones fan myself, I found this laughably ridiculous. I was familiar with The Hives and admittedly liked a few of their tunes when I was 15, but comparing them to The Stones was ludicrous. However, having now seen The Hives live, I am inclined to retract that statement. Of course, musically The Hives have nothing on The Stones; not even Noel has the musical legacy of The Stones (and he's biblically legendary) but performance-wise, The Hives' front man, Howlin Pelle Almqvist easily gives Jagger a run for his money.
Almqvist's magnetic interaction with the crowd and electric stage presence is unparalleled to any front man today. He is bursting with energy and effortlessly transfers this energy to his audience by keeping them in the palm of his hand. His presence is almost hypnotic and the crowd loves it. He even managed to instruct a sea of 45,000 people to sit down and to jump back up upon his cue.
The rest of the band was fantastic too. Pelle's brother and lead guitarist, Niklas, was equally as wild in running up and down the stage and jumping into the crowd. The Hives invest immense effort in turning their set into a thrilling spectacle. From the camouflaged ninjas who carry the leads behind the band, following them across the stage and into the audience, to band's symmetric dress code, to the tense silence as the band freeze in random positions for an uncomfortable amount of time in Tick Tick Boom, The Hives know exactly how to keep their audience entertained and wanting more. Above all else, The Hives themselves know how to have fun and this contagiously transmits into the crowd.
This is not to say that Noel was poor. He was expectadly fantastic, more than satsifying the crowd's hunger for him. From the Oasis days highlights include an acoustic rendition of 'Champagne Supernova', a chanting of 'Whatever' and of course the everpleasing anthem, 'Don't Look Back In Anger'. From his High Flying Birds days, favoruites include a punchy version of 'You Know We Can't Go Back' and the smooth 'Riverman'. His banter during his songs were typically entertaining too.
Noel's songs undoubtedly triumphs those of The Hives, but the energetic stage presence of The Hives wins the day. Don't get me wrong, however, Noel certainly has stage presence - his presence alone walking behind the side curtains during Ryan Adams' set was enough to trigger off a wave of screaming fans, but his presence is simply down to his legendary status. The man has effortless stage presence because of who he is and the songs he has written. Like an ethereal being, the crowd were collectively in awe as he walked on stage, but The Hives spectacularly electrified the crowd with their astonishing performance.
Calling Festival 2015 goers will of course remember that they went to see Noel Gallagher, but certainly won't forget The Hives.
Images: Blogger's own