While we all know it’s not possible, it doesn’t make it any easier to avoid thinking the legendary Spinal Tap is one of Anvil’s influences. It’s the fact that the opposite is much more likely the truth that makes the Anvil story so heartening. After 30 years of consistently making records, and arguably being the genesis of the speed metal/thrash genre, Toronto’s Anvil is finally making some popular headway in the States. The trio played their first-ever Denver show Sunday at the Gothic, and was well received by a hugely enthusiastic, albeit somewhat thin, crowd of rabid metalheads.
Lead by Steve “Lips” Kudlow’s atypical (for speed metal) vocals and thrash-bent “Flying V” guitars, the trio onstage also included Glenn Five on bass and Robb Reiner on drums. They played a two-hour set of metal forged directly in the molten hearts of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Scorpions and Black Sabbath, but with more speed and less schtick. These were three guys who had no interest in being onstage other than to do exactly what they’ve loved and have wanted to do forever– in spite of all the hurdles on their way to this point (for more background, check out the movie “Anvil! the Story of Anvil,” which some have called a sort of “true” version of Spinal Tap).
Kudlow’s no slouch on the guitar, and as they ripped through some of their hits it was obvious he’s spent too much time being all but overlooked. During “Mothra,” one the band extended for quite some time, he not only used his guitar with finesse as well as violence, he also used a gold vibrator on the strings pretty masterfully. Think a more sober Eddie Van Halen with his electric drill, and you’ve got part of the picture.
Kudlow’s performance was much funnier, with no pandering feeling. In fact, Kudlow’s stage presence the entire night was classy, cheerful and appreciative, and he had no trouble engendering a similar response from the crowd. These metalheads, from 16 to 50, were all overjoyed to be in front of a legendary band of underdogs finally making it, and had no trouble showing it. Reiner and Five also kept the enthusiasm, and almost constant speed, at a high level. At one point, during “White Rhino,” Reiner performed as impressive a drum solo as I’ve seen — and for something as dated as that, I was pretty impressed.
They finished the show in grand fashion with “Forged in Fire,” and then “Metal on Metal,” dubbing that hit as “Denver’s anthem.” After a break, when they came back to perform “Jackhammer” as an encore, Kudlow explained the song’s sexually charged (and hilarious) inspiration (it involved bunking with a fellow metal band member, on tour, after a show, and a groupie — you can fill in the blanks).
True to form, Lips joined the audience after their set to talk and sign autographs, proving his heartfelt gratitude, and making even more friends.
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Mateo Leyba is a photo editor at The Denver Post and regular Reverb contributor.