Review by Gary Spiller for MPM
It’s lashing down and there’s a question mark as to whether there’s any more felines and canines left to descend from the skies.
Darkness is now falling early as the winter months draw closer and to top it all off it’s a Sunday! However, there’s a bright star upon high that pierces the moody clouds of this desperate autumnal evening.
Legendary, for there is no other description more apt, Canadian metallers Anvil have rolled into town for their 14th show of their UK dates. A further three shows along the south coast follow this evening before they hop across the Channel for a mighty European tour. A series of gigs that runs across a dozen countries that will take this tasty trio right up to Christmas.
It’s the insatiable, and incomparable, appetite for performing live that has sustained them throughout an arduous 44-year career. A journey which has seen them compared to Spinal Tap, in terms of durability, on one hand and on the other being cited as having influenced such behemoths as Anthrax and Metallica.
Co-founder and frontman Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow relates a funny story from way back in ’83 when he crossed paths with a certain young Lars Ulrich during the bonkers 90 minutes that ensues. From being sped up by Lemmy to demonstrating that a vibrator can be repurposed for musical endeavours life certainly isn’t dull when Anvil is in town!
A good-sized crowd have crammed themselves into the darkened environs of The Cobblestones by the time Lips and his cohorts take to the stage. Lips’ fellow co-founder Robb Reiner settles behind his kit whilst Wilko Johnson lookalike bassist Chris Robertson, most appropriately, scuttles sideways across the stage with a manic, wide-eyed facial expression. With Lips happily ensconced within the crowd, invading the front rows, you get the sense that this isn’t going to be a standard evening. This is a band of the people.
A pairing of the manic instrumental ‘March of The Crabs’ and the heavy artillery of ‘666’ – from 1982’s ‘Metal On Metal’ long-player – set the pace with the cards producing straight aces all the way. By way of introduction Lips roars “We’re Anvil and we play heavy fucking metal!” Nothing more requires saying in truth. Reiner wreaks a vengeance upon his drums in a fury in par with unappeased gods, Robertson tears up basslines for fun whilst, all the while, Lips grins and shreds like a heavy metal Scooby Doo running on double bunny batteries (other brands are available if one is wondering). Make no bones about it, this is well delivered and highly polished early 80s metal and it’s lapped up by the appreciative ensemble.
Lips jokes about the ravages of getting older “Growing old sucks but growing up is optional!” before tearing headlong into the frenetic chugger ‘Ooh Baby, Baby. Serious about their craft they’re also serious about having a great deal of fun along the way. Lips fingers flash along the fret of his trusted red Flying V ‘October’ as he whittles out no frill, good honest riff after riff.
Extolling the virtues of being Canadian ‘Legal At Last’, lifted from the last studio lp, is a punky-edged, Motorhead-fueled ‘celebration’ of the legalisation of marijuana that leads into ‘Take A Lesson’. A richly veneered hard hitting Saxon-esque reflection upon Lips’ life.
A huge slice of ‘Badass Rock n’ Roll’ is served up to feed the horde. With it’s underpinning of Skid Row’s ‘Youth Gone Wild’ stormily melded with an acrid blend of Motorhead and Saxon this highly contagious offering really gets the crowd going.
Lucifer’s dark serpents speed across the skies sensing impending destruction as ‘Winged Assassins’ shows the clear influence that Anvil has had upon the generation of thrashing metallers of the mid-80s. Hooves spark as the hard-galloping ‘Free As The Wind’, dedicated to Lemmy, brings in an Iron Maiden-ish feel to proceedings. Song-end and, beating his heart in appreciation, Lips smiles broadly.
He has every right to Anvil are ‘On Fire’ and they know it! This crazy-assed Motorhead paced demon roars as the fiery herd stampedes across the starlit plains. Behind a lone rider, upon a sleek black mustang, shadows. A lone cowbell strikes a resonate tone. Horns raised The Cobblestones salutes their champions.
Fist pumping Lips enquires “How many people have seen the Anvil movie?” Noting the raucous response, he adds “Ok, you’ve seen me naked! Not a good image!” Laced with Sabbath undercurrents ‘This Is Thirteen” broodingly stomps about the place before the rapid delivery of the arcane ‘Mothra’ is unleashed. Inducing a mild panic into the band’s tech at the side of the stage, amps bounce in time with the madness that is Chris Robertson. Rambunctious hollers of “Hell yeah” rip forth from the crowd whilst Lips rubs in hands with glee.
From seemingly nowhere he pulls out a shiny black implement to demonstrate its adaptability for musical purposes. I can safely say that this is the most spectacularly prodigious utilisation, in musical terms, of a sex toy I’ve ever witnessed. Unphased, all the while, Reiner and Robertson lay down a furious rhythm. This is along the lines of a chemically induced ‘Sabre Dance.’ The good folk of Tokyo rejoice.
The marauding ‘Bitch In The Box’ is followed by the second instrumental of the evening which arrives in the pure 100% proof form of ‘Swing Thing.’ Loudly appreciated Reiner’s extended solo is sublime and a not-so-gentle reminder of the quality herein. Lips and Robertson take the opportunity to ‘strafe’ the crowd in unison.
The brand new ‘Ghost Shadow’ thrashes wildly. Spirit assassins execute their hideous revenge; swooping to sink their razor-edged talons into their prey. The afterlife has awoken, just in time to savour the anthemic ‘Metal On Metal.’ A metalliferous entity that encapsulates Anvil in a perfect nugget. As he began the set so Lips steps forth off the stage and into the crowd to head into the outro and a befitting finale.
With Neil Diamond’s ‘Sweet Caroline’ blasting through the PA Lips stays in the crowd to sign autographs and pose for selfies. Truly a musician of the people.
Photography by Kelly Spiller for MPM