It’s been a while since my last visit to the fabled old haunts (word used purposely; the Tiv is reputedly haunted by numerous spooks!) that is the Buckley Tivoli. But it’s been an eternity since last I saw Anvil! My first encounter with the Canadian metallers was way back, at the 1982 Donington when they opened that year’s Monsters of Rock event (headlined by Status Quo) and this show, a mere 36 years later, was my second Anvil gig! They take the prize for the longest gap between seeing the same band again, then, but although they never really broke through as they might have hoped to back in those far-off days, they did influence plenty who did.
Anvil were, of course the subject of a ‘rockumentary’ film a few years ago, a kind of ‘Some Kind of Monster’ only the subjects were not multi-millionaires being encouraged by a therapist to swim through balloons (!) The film did however, raise their profile internationally enabling the band to return to stages across the world, including a Download appearance. Since then the band (now a trio, comprising original members Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow on guitar and vocals, drummer Robb Reiner and completed by current bassist Chris Robertson) have gone on to enjoy a lengthy Indian summer, with a recent album (‘Pounding The Pavement’) released through a crowdfunding campaign.
This was a three-band bill, but a hold-up in leaving for Buckley meant I had missed openers Sidewinder. Next band up were Cheshire rockers Hollowpoint, a five-piece playing 80s-influenced hard rock (including a cover of ‘Gimme Gimme Good Lovin’, made famous in 1984 by another Canadian band – Helix – of course, but originally by Crazy Elephant). The quintet were good players, but nothing you haven’t seen many times before.
When Anvil came on stage, the first thing Lips did was come straight off the stage and out onto the floor! Playing a frenetic lead solo, ‘in the round’ and surrounded by cheering faces, he greeted the assembled crowd with the declaration of : ‘We are Anvil and we play Heavy Metal’ – using his guitar pickup as a microphone! He then led the band into ‘March Of The Crabs’, managing to pose for ‘selfies’ with crowd members while playing guitar at the same time, then he returned to the stage for next number ‘666’.
The set included many headbangers from the early 80s and more recent material (including three from the current album). Lips took most of the attention of course, with plenty of fiery guitar playing and some spectacular ‘gurning expressions’ to accompany the solos! He also had a self-deprecating line in humour, when introducing ‘Bitch in a Box’ he told how some had seen the title and instantly slammed the band for sexism. He then pointed out the song’s lyric is about being misdirected by a sat-nav! Although a trio these days, the hard-hitting bass attack of Chris Robertson almost acts like a rhythm guitar – he really slams it hard and is just as energetic as Lips when jumping about the stage. The solo spots came later in the set with ‘Mothra’ leading into Lips’ solo spot where he played guitar using a sex toy as a ‘slide'(!) Not exactly Jimmy Page with a bow, but Lips’ sense of fun lets him get away with it where other bands would probably be condemned for such a stunt! Robb Reiner’s solo came during ‘Swing Thing’, an instrumental prefaced by an intro from Lips, claiming that swing music has an influence on rock and metal. It certainly did in this piece, reminiscent of Zep’s ‘Moby Dick’.
A long set ran until well past 11pm, ending with ‘Metal On Metal’, which saw Lips return to the floor for one last solo among the crowd. Their set indeed showed how much that they did influence later, more successful bands (some of whom appear in their rockumentary film) but also how they were influenced themselves, Lips readily gave a shout-out to Lemmy, and their old-school Metal styling reminded me of Judas Priest – or how they’d sound with only one guitar, perhaps!
This was a great night of old-school Heavy Metal, the sort of gig that makes you realise how so many newer bands, those that consider themselves ‘Metal’ just don’t clang with that same resonance. When you see a real Metal band do their thing, you know about it – and Anvil are real Metal, alright. Long may their renaissance continue, and it will not be another 36 years before I see them again, that’s for sure!