The legend of Anvil, like their style, is persistent, driven and a little tongue in cheek. However when they took to the smoky stage of Brighton’s tiny Green Door Store on a Sunday night it was clear that they were here for one reason and one reason only. As lead sing Steve ‘ Lips’ Kudlow put it: to enjoy some old school Heavy. F*ckin’. Metal.
Having made a pact at the age of 14, drummer Robb Reiner and guitarist Kudlow agreed to keep rocking until they were old men. Nearly 40 years later, it’s a promise they look to have made good on, although it may be questioned if their technical skills at playing live have actually improved since the hallowed pact was made.
This however, didn’t matter. Launching their sold out show with the driving ‘March of the Crabs’, Kudlow began the set thrashing flamboyantly with his axe amongst the crowd. During their second number ‘666’ the favour was returned with a stage invasion from an overly keen audience member. Solos, swearing and groupies, this clearly was going to be a gig which touched all the tropes of good ol’ rock and roll.
Anvil’s music captures both the best, and the worst, of an era of music that involved leather, studs and perms. There’s an unapologetic celebration to their music, as the track “Doing What I Want” clearly demonstrated. As they played through a set list that spanned their large back catalogue it was hard not to enjoy the characterful performances of Lips and engaged facial expressions of bassist Chris Robertson.
Interspersing the chugging of guitars and speedy basslines with authentic audience engagement, Anvil provided a show that was polished enough to show they’d been in the business a long time, but rough enough to be a throwback to intimate underground gigs of the good old days. Dedicating “Free as the Wind” to Lemmy Kilmister and mesmerising with performance throughout the gig but ultimately a few more strikes of the hammer was needed to smooth the performance out.
“Getting older is a fact of life,” Lips proclaimed midway through the set, “growing up however, eh?” he added with a raised eyebrow and trademark Aardman-esque grin. The crowd cheered and raised their drinks, enjoying a Peter Pan style of heavy metal that refuses to grow up.
This is why Anvil are the unsung legends of the 80s metal scene. Capturing the humour and tenacity of a genre that could easily take itself too seriously, Anvil bring a lightness to heavy metal and – even if they’re not technically perfect – their animated style, unapologetic attitude and dedication to the genre make for a unique show even after all this time.
Anvil @ The Green Door Store, Brighton
February 18th, 2018
Words by Terri Witherden
Photos by Gili Dailes