The Heavy, Bonnie Raitt, Mavis Staples, The Hives, The Cult

The Heavy and The Hives have some things in common. Both gave hard driving, sweaty performances and interacted with their audiences in a way that fed their energy while working fans into a lather at sold out venues – The Heavy at The Mercury Lounge on Monday, June 18th, 2012 and The Hives at Terminal 5 on Friday. The Heavy cover more musical ground as they incorporate R&B, funk, and ska into their rock. They managed to find room on the tiny Merc stage for ten people including a full horn section and a pair of backing vocalists. Frontman Kelvin Swaby, with his mini Mohawk hair cut, coached the crowd how to respond to his calls on new songs from the forthcoming disc The Glorious Dead that will be unleashed next month.

While The Heavy were dressed in suits (at least for starters), The Hives adhered to their black/white visual aesthetic by dressing in tuxes. Swaby is charismatic but Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist is a true madman with showmanship in spades. He led his Swedish quintet through a relentless set of short, fast, and satisfying songs that recall The Ramones without imitating them. He instructed the crowd to answer all his question with “Yes” or “Hives” and later revised that to “Hives!” for all questions. Despite not having the benefit of chairs, he also tried to get everyone to sit down at one point and very nearly succeeded. Something else they pulled off for a laugh that I’ve never seen a band do was having all the members freeze at the end of a number one time like at the end of a seventies TV cop show. All the banter and hi-jinks are secondary to the fact that The Hives are a gloriously good garage band.

That made it two consecutive Fridays for killer rock shows at Terminal 5 as The Cult really went for the throat the previous Friday. Punishingly loud and playing like they had something to prove, they reminded the sold out crowd of how cool the psychedelic rock on the Love album is, how big the arena rock on Sonic Temple is, how tough the rock on the riffy Electric is, and how strong their new album is called Choice of Weapon.

Bonnie Raitt may be better than she’s ever been. On Wednesday at The Beacon she showed her very heavy and tasty chops on slide guitar and sent shivers up my spine on more than one occasion with her voice most memorably on I Can’t Make You Love Me and John Prine’s Angel From Montgomery. Her first appearance on stage was during opener Mavis Staples‘ set and the two share a warm rapport based on mutual admiration and respect. This was the third time I’ve seen Mavis in the past year or so and she is a helluva performer.

Bonnie’s new album Slipstream is very strong and she offered a handful of tracks from it along with tidbits about their origins and contributing musicians/producers. She didn’t fail to deliver some down and dirty traditional blues numbers as well yielding lead vocal to keyboardist Mike Finnigan (who turned in an eccentric performance) for one.

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