Review: Anvil at The Rockpile West

Toronto’s speed metal veterans got heavy with hometown fans last Friday

By Manus Hopkins

Anvil frontman Steve “Lips” Kudlow delivers a real rock ‘n’ roll show to a crowd of diehard fans on March 8. (CanCulture/Manus Hopkins)

Anvil frontman Steve “Lips” Kudlow delivers a real rock ‘n’ roll show to a crowd of diehard fans on March 8. (CanCulture/Manus Hopkins)

It’s not so common anymore to see the living, breathing legends of days past up close and personal in venues like The Rockpile. You get the dinosaur bands who tour once or twice a decade through big-city stadiums, or the washed-up acts you might catch mid-day at some county fair with one or two original members. The band in question tonight falls into neither of these categories.

A couple hundred fans have flocked out for the first of two nights in Toronto on Anvil’s ‘Pounding the Pavement’ 2019 tour. There is even a surprisingly high number of fans who come early to see sets from four local support acts. Old-school heavy metal group Injustice, hard rock cover band Rotten Candy and heavy rock trio Down the Void each play a half hour set to an enthusiastic audience. The main support band, Caym, rips through a ferocious but unexpectedly short set, and at midnight the real event begins.

Main support act, Caym, bring their raw energy to to the Rockpile and leave with a few new fans. (CanCulture/Manus Hopkins)

Main support act, Caym, bring their raw energy to to the Rockpile and leave with a few new fans. (CanCulture/Manus Hopkins)

Immediately upon taking the stage, Anvil frontman and guitarist Steve “Lips” Kudlow jumps off and snakes his way into the crowd, where he stays for the opening song, an instrumental, “March of the Crabs.” The people who surround Kudlow are the same diehards who have supported his band for decades, and when he returns to the stage, the band wastes no time ripping into fan favourite “666.”

Kudlow shows his signature way of introducing “666” off of 1982’s  Metal on Metal.  (CanCulture/Manus Hopkins)

Kudlow shows his signature way of introducing “666” off of 1982’s Metal on Metal. (CanCulture/Manus Hopkins)

Formed back in 1978, Anvil was a huge influence on many bands that made up the emerging thrash metal scene in the early 1980s. Infamous thrashers like Slayer, Anthrax and the highest-selling metal band of all, Metallica, have all cited Anvil as an inspiration.

Unfortunately, it would be decades before the group gained the recognition they deserved.

Anvil’s career-spanning set incorporates material from their 1981 debut album Hard ‘n’ Heavy, all the way up to their most recent record, 2018’s Pounding the Pavement. With 17 albums under their belt, there’s a lot of ground for Anvil to cover. They don’t rely on the nostalgia factor, though. Newer tunes like “Bitch in the Box” and “Badass Rock ‘n’ Roll” fit nicely in the set alongside the classics.

That’s not to say songs that were written over 30 years ago like “Winged Assassins” and “Mothra” don’t still manage to sound fresh. The old records might be dated by today’s standards with the advancements in recording technology, but there’s still a magic to them that isn’t often captured in the digital age.

It’s easy to see that the members of Anvil are genuinely having fun onstage, but there are touching moments in Kudlow’s banter as well. He takes some time to recount stories of partying with late Motörhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister in the early 80s, and acknowledges the impact the incredibly moving 2008 documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil had on the band’s career.

Before the success of the movie, Kudlow and fellow Anvil founder, drummer Robb Reiner, stuck it out as a band, but struggled to the point of having to work dead-end day jobs while they weren’t on tour. After a few words about the film, Kudlow tells the crowd he hasn’t had to deliver meals for 10 years, sparking a huge cheer through the venue.

The worst days are behind them: Anvil can now rock out onstage and go home with a paycheck. (CanCulture/Manus Hopkins)

The worst days are behind them: Anvil can now rock out onstage and go home with a paycheck. (CanCulture/Manus Hopkins)

Anvil has been called the real-life version of the fictional band from the 1984 mockumentary This is Spinal Tap, and it shows in their performance. A bass solo, a guitar solo (for which Kudlow swaps out his pick for a vibrator) and a bombastic drum solo all find their way into the 90-minute show. The main set closes with Canadian heavy metal anthem Metal on Metal, and if there are any doubts that Anvil has still got their fire, this song alone is enough to dispel them. This is a veteran band that hasn’t lost a bit of its edge over its 40-year career. Not bad for a group of guys in their 60s.