Summerfest Review: The Hives, Lady Antebellum


You couldn’t find two bands more perfectly honed for Milwaukee’s Summerfest than The Hives and Lady Antebellum.

There’s a free and easy atmosphere permeating the huge free music festival. I hate to use cliches like “free and easy,” but when the brews are flowing and warm breezes are coming off the water to the sound of the world’s top indie and major label acts, what else can you do?

And, though their respective genres are Great Lakes apart, The Hives and Lady Antebellum capture the free-flowing joy of a summer music festival in a town that is crushed by cold weather six months out of the year and the humid mellows of a midwestern summer night.

True to their standard procedure, The Hives strutted onto the Summerfest Rock Stage in tuxedos – all spats and tails and guitars strung to withstand a violent assault of throbbing, thrashing music.

Sweden’s own version of The Ramones or Sex Pistols (while much better mannered) rocked the crowd back on its heels with an unrelenting hour plus set that put the strutting, flirting, pouting and jutting frontman Howlin' Pelle Almqvist front and center.

There’s nothing inhibited or pretentious about the all-out rock assault The Hives buzz into the air (unless you count their wardrobe). They combine that abandon with polished professional playing to pound out a show that’s more of a sensory spanking than it is a concert.

Over on the festival’s Marcus Amphitheater mainstage, the country/pop trio Lady Antebellum played to a more easygoing, but equally elated crowd of 25,000. All their breakout hits were on full display, including the Grammy-pulling  tunes like "We Owned the Night."

Lady Antebellum used the Summerfest crowd to celebrate the conclusion of their six month spring and summer tour. The band’s up tempo, clapping and dancing festival couldn’t have been more distinct from The Hives stripped down show. Huge screens and stage effects highlighted the  nearly three-hour set lightly lathed by Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and the amazing, play-everything Dave Haywood.

While The Hives were breaking guitar screens and drum sticks, Lady Antebellum was playing beanbag games on a bar set to the tunes of a “Purple Rain” cover. Those are two very different stage presentations with the same Summerfest theme. These hot summer nights are about celebrating music.