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Road Reports

Who: Anvil
Where: Crofoot Ballroom, Pontiac, MI
When: 01.09.10

Time to hit the road again, this time traveling to Pontiac, MI to catch Anvil on their "A Night of Anvil" tour. Arriving just minutes after the doors opened, yours truly and friend found the mid-sized club of the Crofoot to be well packed, a cross-generational crowd that boasted many a young metalhead; hell, even drummer Robb Reiner's son was working the merch booth. A couple of quick sets (and I mean quick, 2 and 5 songs respectively) by a pair of local Detroit acts, both of which were decidedly non-metal, more-or-less garage rock really, not that that's a bad thing, but we were here to catch our well-regarded progenitors of ‘80's speed metal up close and personal.

As you all are probably well aware of by now, Anvil saw the release of a documentary film a couple of years ago that has taken the world by storm, as well as the lives of founding duo Robb Reiner and Steven "Lips" Kudlow, along with seasoned bassist Glenn "Five" Gyorffy; the band now on a globe-trotting mission to reinvigorate the metal community with the name of Anvil. The thrust of the tour is the live set preceded by the complete showing of the movie. Having seen it once and thoroughly enjoying it had me anticipating another viewing, albeit I wasn't sure about the idea of standing down front for an entire hour and a half film, but, once the flick began, the thought quickly strayed from consciousness, becoming engrossed in the tale of man's dedication and perseverance. I won't bother to review the movie here, but suffice it to say that the crowd was quite moved, cheering and applauding the guys during their emotional exposition.

No sooner did the curtains close on the big screen than the band hit the stage, "Lips" announcing "March of the Crabs" as he immediately walked down the steps stage-side and into the front of the crowd to perform the classic riff-fest; digital devices swarming the Canuck for the two and a half minute attack. Back up to the stage and launching right into the classic "666" found the audience immediately eating out of the trio's hands. "Lips" then introduced the band, and as he so often did throughout the evening, also announced his thrill of "living the dream", the ear-to-ear grin told the entire story, his infectious joy lifting the crowd into enthusiastic excitement as ears were graced with the classics "Mothra" and "Winged Assassins".

"Lips" then told of a fan's earlier inquiry regarding first album (Hard 'n' Heavy) representation to which the guys readily responded with "School Love". From here the gears shifted to the latest album from 2007 and the title track "This Is Thirteen", a heavy-handed doom-laden rocker that garnered plenty of crowd support. Two other songs from that album saw stage time, the blistering and highly melodic "Flying Blind", as well as the film-inspired "Thumb Hang", again, an infectious melody flowing right from the risers and into the hearts of the fans.

At some point around this time the flamboyant guitarist whipped out his steely dan, (yeah, if you've seen the movie, or are familiar with the band's stage hijinks, then you know!) and proceeded to flick the controller through various speeds while running the chrome proboscis up and down the neck of his guitar, even garnering a repulsed rejection from a young blonde female standing rail-side when "Lips" approached her with it, amidst the laughter of the audience.

Next the guys reached into 2002's Still Going Strong album for the instrumental "White Rhino", which afforded Robb to showcase his talents via the requisite drum solo; the big guy smashing the skins with a Bonhamesque bent, much to the delight of the concert-goers. Strength of Steel from 1987 saw its sole representation provided by "Mad Dog", one of the somewhat sub-par album's few decent tracks, but then it was back to the two classics, Metal On Metal and Forged In Fire to round out the evening.

Several moments during the evening found "Lips" regaling the crowd with tales of current delights regarding the positively wonderful turn the band's career has recently taken with all the sudden exposure, even telling of his chance to play with Saxon recently on stage in England per Biff Byford's request for the glorious "Denim and Leather", a song which "Lips" himself began to play the riff for igniting the crowd into chants of "Denim and Leather" and "Saxon". I sure wished the band would've played it, but just hearing "Lips" tell the story with the all the awe of a teenage metalhead meeting his heroes for the first time was worthy enough.

"Forged In Fire" carried the crowd toward the close of the evening, but not before the necessary "Metal On Metal" graced our ears. The approximate 400-500 in attendance chanted along come chorus time, an extended call and response finishing up the song with joyous bursts of approval. Off the stage they went, only to have "Anvil" repeatedly chanted, beckoning for a final encore. Eventually, the three made it back out and finished the evening with "Jackhammer" from Metal On Metal, its lyrical inspiration comically imparted to the crowd just before the riffs took over; a respectful group bow, and the lights went up.

Of course, hanging around to get some swag signed was of highest import, as I couldn't ignore the chance to finally meet one of the few bands who were heavy and fast enough to make an impression upon me way back in the early 80's when there were very few bands in existence who could do so. After about fifteen minutes that chance came, as crowds hovered, we made our way up to the guys and briefly talked, congratulating them on their newfound success and offering sincerest thanks for a great show; autographs were given in exchange, and we then headed out into the sub-zero temperature of late-night MI in early January, warmed only by the joy gained from a great concert-going experience.

If you haven't had the chance to see the movie "The Story of Anvil" yet, it's a must for any music fan, not just metal. You'll probably find renewed interest in trying to catch the band live as well, and it's more than worth it!

--Raising Iron

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