It might only be a couple of songs into what turns out to be a mammoth two hour set, but Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow already feels the need to fill in some of the blanks in our collective received wisdom. The Anvil singer and guitarist wants to share with us his basic philosophy in life.
With a smile as broad as a Saskatchewan prairie, Lips cheerfully tells us “never ever fucking give in to someone else’s fucking opinions”. Given the vagaries in the fortunes of the band that he has now fronted for nigh on 40 years and the scorn that is often heaped upon them, these are clearly watchwords he has been wise to heed.
Alongside drummer and his best buddy since schooldays Robb Reiner, Lips formed Anvil in 1981. Released the following year, their second album Metal on Metal placed the Canadian rockers firmly on the metal map, a position from which they were to be an early influence on the likes of Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax. Anvil seemed destined for greatness.
But for a whole variety of reasons ranging from bad management to bad karma, it just never happened for Anvil. They soon slid into relative obscurity, a journey that is reflected in Sacha Gervasi’s riotous yet equally poignant documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil. Whilst the film did manage to bring Anvil back into the public consciousness, it cast them in a world that now belonged to Wayne Campbell and Spinal Tap.
And Anvil today are more than happy to play up to this rather preposterous caricature. Everything about them is wildly overblown. From the monster tour bus parked right outside of Fibbers’ front door to the double-drum kit, flying V guitar and the band’s name projected onto a screen behind them in huge capital letters, it all makes for great parody. And when Lips pulls out a dildo as a makeshift plectrum for a demented ‘Mothra’, the whole damn thing just about manages to stay the right side of ridiculous.
But the Anvil experience is nothing if not great fun and beneath all of their satirical self-deprecation there does lie a top rock’n’roll band. Honed by years out on the road, Anvil sure know how to invest a live performance with energy, enthusiasm and the greatest of passion. This is the sound of three guys who are clearly enjoying themselves.
For all of his apparent lack of reconstruction – the song ‘Bitch in a Box’ is actually about a GPS system – Lips is a rather sensitive soul. He describes himself as an old hippie, citing peace and love as two of his core values (the latter, albeit, in a more carnal, physical sense). He also pays tribute to Lemmy with a thunderous ‘Free As The Wind’, prefacing the song with an absolutely hilarious tale about a time playing with Motörhead in Birmingham back in 1983 which involved the consumption of 40oz bottles of vodka, an industrial quantity of unspecified white powders served up by Mr Kilmister on a razor blade taken from his jacket pocket and the absence of any recollection whatsoever of the events of the ensuing 24 hours.
200 miles away in London tonight the Brit Awards are taking place amongst a sea of self-congratulatory glitz, glamour and complete and utter vacuity. Here in York we experience the other side of the music business; a live band generating what is genuine pleasure and excitement by playing some good old honest rock’n’roll music to a whole bunch of receptive people in a small independent venue. And for that Anvil and Fibbers, we must salute you.
Photo credit: Simon Godley
Some more photos from this show can be found HERE