ANVIL FRONTMAN LIPS’ ENTHUSIASM IS VERY CONTAGIOUS
Date: August 17, 2018
Venue: The Rockpile
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
It had been almost five years since I last saw Anvil perform live. Although the Canadian heavy metal veterans seem to play The Rockpile each year, somehow the stars did not align and I missed those concerts until last Friday. Just about everyone in the heavy metal community knows that Anvil have benefited from a real renaissance in band interest ever since the release of the well deserved and critically acclaimed documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil. Frankly, it’s my favorite hard rock documentary as it captures so well the frustration, passion and struggles that Anvil stalwarts Lips (lead guitarist and lead vocalist) and Robb Reiner (drummer) had been facing for 20 years or so. The last subsequent ten years have seemingly been the best for Anvil as they have taken advantage of the documentary’s success to rejuvenate their music career. Lips and Reiner no longer have their day jobs (which didn’t look all that great in the documentary) and are now playing concerts all over the world.
I think the greatest part about an Anvil concert is simply the enthusiasm displayed by Anvil frontman Lips more than 35 years after the group first started. Lips‘ enthusiasm was clearly evident as he was all smiles and telling the Rockpile audience how happy that he was to be there. It’s hard not to have a good time when a performer is seemingly having such a great time onstage. As most concerts at The Rockpile, it often starts with various band members fine tuning their instruments before starting their set and Anvil were no exception. Things then started quite differently from any concert as Lips went into the audience with his guitar while the group played the instrumental “March Of The Crabs.” Lips also spoke to the audience from his guitar saying something to the like of “Toronto! Are you ready to rock? So is Anvil and we played fuckin’ heavy metal!” Although I give points for originality to Anvil for starting their concert in an unconventional and different manner, as I reviewed my concert review from October 2013, I noticed that Anvil started their show the exact same way!
And just like last time, the opening song after the instrumental was “666” from Anvil‘s Metal On Metal album. Anvil did mix up their set considerably from the last time that I saw them almost five years ago keeping their concert staples while inserting a bunch of new songs from their latest studio album Pounding The Pavement, playing at least one deeper cut (“Oooh Baby” from their 1981 debut Hard ‘n’ Heavy) and even a cover (the over played Steppenwolf classic “Born To Be Wild”). Overall, Anvil played a remarkable amount of newer songs from their latest studio albums instead of relying on tracks from their likely most well known early albums (Hard ‘n Heavy, Metal On Metal and Forged In Fire). Anvil ended up playing one song from Hard ‘n’ Heavy (1981), four from Metal On Metal (1982), two from Forged In Fire (1983), one from This Is Thirteen (2007), three from Juggernaut Of Justice (2011), one from Hope In Hell (2013), three from Pounding The Pavement (2018) and one cover song.
Four things really stuck out for me about Anvil‘s concert on this night. First of all, Lips was very entertaining between songs providing some cool stories and background to a lot of the songs that were to be played. I usually resist sharing a frontman’s concert stories because it is likely that they are told from one show to the next but I can’t resist sharing the one that Lips told about Mötorhead now deceased frontman Lemmy Kilmister. Lips fondly recalled how Anvil had just changed their band name from “Lips” in 1981 and were asked to open for Lemmy‘s legendary Mötorhead at I believe the Danforth [Music Hall] in Toronto. Lemmy was apparently at the side of the stage watching Anvil‘s set and Lips asked him what he thought of the band to which Lemmy replied something along the lines of “Good, but too many hard parts.” Whatever the case, Mötorhead ended up having Anvil open for them during a tour of the UK in 1983.
Lips recalled how they had one night off in Birmingham, UK so he thought that he would party with the great Lemmy Kilmister. Lips showed up at Lemmy‘s hotel room where the legend had a tall 40 oz bottle of vodka and another 60 oz bottle of orange juice. Lips admitted that he was a lightweight in terms of drinking alcohol and before long, he could hardly speak. Lemmy saw him in his inebriated condition and stated that he didn’t look good but he had just the cure for him. Lemmy pulled out a black pouch, got a knife and scooped out some white powder that he put under Lips‘ nose while instructing the Anvil frontman to snif it. Lips did just that and recalled how he started talking and talking and talking, and how he got all his energy back. Eventually, someone knocked on the door of Lemmy‘s room indicating that it was time for the gig. Lips couldn’t believe it as this was supposed to be their night off but he was then told that Lemmy and him had been partying for 24 hours straight in the room!
The second thing that struck me on this night were all the young people in the audience. There was a mosh pit that surfaced for a number of songs and I was shocked by how many youngsters (people in their 20s) were in the audience singing along. I truly think that this is the aftermath of the documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil as I think the film reached a lot of people that Anvil would normally not have been able to get to. Bottom line is that although Lips is now 62 years old, the audience listening to Anvil was a healthy mix of younger and older people, which is not the case for a lot of veteran heavy metal bands these days. The third thing that struck me was how “new” bassist Chris Robertson fits seemingly so well in the band. Robertson really looked like he was enjoying himself onstage and made so many weird faces while playing that he was quite entertaining to watch. As Lips pointed out, it has taken them awhile but they found the right guy. Finally, I was struck by how good of a drummer that Reiner really is. Not only is he a world class drummer but his playing style is quite different from other heavy metal drummers as he holds his drumstick in his right hand almost like someone would seemingly hold chopsticks while eating. As Lips indicated to the audience, Reiner is the “best fuckin’ drummer in the world” and certainly, Reiner put on a strong display on this night to make a case for himself to snag that title.
Overall, I had a lot of fun at Anvil‘s latest stopover at The Rockpile in Toronto. The only things that I would have liked to see different would have been a little less jamming and solos in the second half of the night and for another song than “This Is Thirteen” to have been played from the album of the same name. I’ll be sure to purchase Anvil‘s 2011 album Juggernaut Of Justice in the next little while because I really liked the three songs (“Swing Thing,” “Running” and “On Fire”) that were played from that album.
01. March Of The Crabs
03. Oooh Baby
04. Badass Rock ‘N’ Roll
05. Doing What I Want
06. Winged Assassins
07. Free As A Wind
08. On Fire
09. This Is Thirteen
11. Guitar solo
12. Bitch in The Box
13. Swing Thing
14. Drum solo
15. Swing Thing (reprise)
17. Metal On Metal
19. Born To Be Wild (Steppenwolf cover)
Robb Reiner‘s drum solo at Anvil‘s concert at The Rockpile in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on August 17, 2018: