When Anvil drummer Robb Reiner mounted the stage, the crowd at Seattle’s Studio Seven club erupted. One fan yelled, “You made it!” The band surveyed the nearly sold-out audience and beamed back 1,000-watt smiles. Just one year ago, this gig would have been unthinkable. But here they are, on top of the world, 30 years after their debut.
The catalyst for all of this has been the excellent documentary, Anvil: The Story Of Anvil. You just can’t help but root for these guys after seeing it. Because even though their time has clearly passed, they still believe. It really is the ultimate underdog story.
Heartwarming or not, though, we also showed up for some good old-fashioned metal, and Anvil delivered. They opened up with a fairly intricate instrumental, which showcased Steve “Lips” Kudlow’s Flying V guitar skills in no uncertain terms. This bled into “666,” the first of four songs from their second LP, Metal On Metal (1982).
Bassist Glen Five got his chance to shine fairly early on, during “Winged Assassin.” Lips introduced him as “The new guy,” having only been with the band for 14 years.
Midway through the set, they pulled out the big guns for “Mothra.” Their performance of this enduring classic has to be seen to be believed. Lips goes absolutely batshit on guitar, even utilizing a big shiny metal dildo at one point for the ultimate slide effect.
True to their old-school heritage, Anvil included a drum solo. Not one of those wimpy 30-second ones either—this was a total Rush-style extravaganza, and was not to be missed. It also served to highlight one thing about Anvil that seems to get lost in their story: These three musicians are really good, tight as hell, and can seriously play.
Lips could have a second career as a stand-up comedian, introducing each song with an hilarious story to which I found myself laughing out loud every time. Whether it was about Geezer Butler calling him a “fucking colonial Canadian,” or his dog’s “pink crayon,” the guy cracked me up.
The set ended with “the national anthem of metal,” as Lips called it, “Metal On Metal.” They encored with “Jackhammer,” but the night was not over yet. Lips announced that they would be back in 10 minutes to sign autographs and take pictures with anyone who wanted to stick around. Quite a few fans took him up on it, including yours truly. Anvil are as genuine as they come in the rock and roll world, and it was a privilege to see them.
The tour started out last summer as The Anvil Experience with a completely different setup. Anvil: The Anvil Story would be screened at the venue, followed by the band coming out and playing their set. It was brilliant marketing, and worked so well that practically everybody has seen the movie now. So these days, they are asking local bands to open for them.
In Seattle, the warm-up acts were H.M.P. and Kill Or Be Conquered. Both were young, energetic, thrashy, and got the crowd well primed. H.M.P., which stands for Heavy Metal Poetry, should have been called the “Fuck Yeah’s” because that was pretty much all the singer had to say. They were powerful in a Slayer kind of way.
Kill Or Be Conquered impressed me on a few counts. Their three-guitar attack was pretty mind-blowing for music like this in the first place. Didn’t the three-guitar approach sort of go out with The Outlaws back in 1978? They made it work though, incredibly enough. Their bassist played a pretty cool five-string model, and their drummer kicked solid ass. I liked these guys a lot.
The all-ages setup at Studio Seven was perfect for this show. Besides a healthy number of headbangers just shy of 21 (and unable to get into the upstairs bar) there were a lot of parent/teen combos. I was one of them, and was able to introduce my son to the band afterward. The Anvil Experience may not be Pat Robertson's idea of family fun, but we sure had a good time.
And I can’t wait to see Anvil again.