Thursday, July 23, 2009

Anvil Coda

I'm not a big metal fan and usually treat the press releases that hit my inbox with indifference, but this one sent shivers up my spine. It is a heartwarming epilogue to the documentary Anvil: the Story of Anvil. The film chronicled the aborted rise of little-known but well-regarded Canadian metal band Anvil. They were on brink of stardom in the early '80s, and while their contemporaries went on to great fame, that next step eluded Anvil. Bad luck, bad circumstances and bad decisions kept them from ever making it big, but founders and brothers-in-spirit Lips and Robb Reiner have kept the band going all these years. The film ends with Lips' endless optimism finally paying off as they play before thousands of rabid fans in Japan.

Well, it gets better. The interest in the band generated by the film has them opening for AC/DC on a few stadium dates, and their latest album is getting wider release. The mere fact that they have an experienced, competent publicist spreading the word is a sign that things are finally heading in the right direction for them.


Los Angeles, CA - July 22, 2009 -- Certainly one of the most feel-good rock n' roll comeback stories of recent times is that of Canadian heavy metal band Anvil. The band, considered a major influence for a generation of hard rockers including Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, and Guns N' Roses, was the subject of a critically acclaimed, must-see rock-doc, 'Anvil! The Story of Anvil,' directed by Sacha Gervasi. And in the process, the film has made the group (led by singer/guitarist Steve "Lips" Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner - both founding members) a household name. But the group's story will certainly not end with the film.

First up for Anvil are U.S. shows opening for Aussie rock legends AC/DC - in football stadiums. We're really excited about these shows, we've only heard awesome things about playing in football stadiums. I was with the Green Day guys last night, and they were telling me, 'Man, it's probably going to be the gig of your life'!"

And then on September 15, This is Thirteen will finally see proper national distribution on CD and vinyl via VH1 Classic Records. The CD will feature the newly recorded, never-before released bonus track "Thumb Hang." The collectible double vinyl LP boasts newly re-recorded versions of Anvil classics "Metal on Metal" and "666." The album, originally recorded in 2007 and produced by Chris Tsangarides (Judas Priest, Thin Lizzy), was primarily available directly from the band via their website and at their concerts.

"'This is Thirteen' is more like our first three albums," says Lips, "which represent our real identity. For many of our albums, we went on an 'integrity hunt' instead of on a 'commercial/radio hunt,' so we became extremely inaccessible to radio. This time, we stepped back and said, 'What were we originally?' And we rediscovered ourselves, I suppose." Reiner adds, "There are three tracks that in my opinion, are definitely, 100% AOR/hard rock/commercial radio tracks - 'American Refuge,' 'Flying Blind,' and 'Feed the Greed.' Catchy melodies, incredible drum feels - they just all rock."

The title track is about as classic Anvil as you can get - that slow, powerful, heavy backbeat with cool changes. The violent-sounding "Bombs Away" is, according to Reiner, "the almightiest metal track on the entire record," "Ready to Fight" is pure speed rock 'n roll - Nugent on steroids - that boasts super-heavy drumming, and "Big Business" is akin, musically-speaking, to Cream's classic "Sunshine of Your Love." And then there's the true classic, Anvil near-anthem, "Shoulda' Woulda' Coulda'," that's about living life with no regrets.

Reiner points out that the input from acclaimed producer Tsangarides (who produced early Anvil albums) was a major reason for This is Thirteen turning out the way it did. "The last four or five albums, material-wise, were all similar. We had been trying to find the direction back to the classic Anvil style and sound - it's just that the production hadn't been up to scratch. Chris was a big missing part on our past albums."

Despite some zany Spinal Tap-like parallels between Anvil and David St. Hubbins and company in the film, Anvil has always been taken seriously by metalheads, including some very well known rock stars, who praise the band in the film. "Anvil was one of those bands that just put on this really amazing live performance," said Velvet Revolver/ex-Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash, while Motorhead singer/bassist Lemmy added, "They were a great band - I always liked Anvil," and Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich gushed, "These guys were going to turn the music world upside down."

So, the AC/DC dates, the release of This is Thirteen, what else can fans expect from Anvil in the future? Lips was willing to provide a hint: "Working. More recording. More gigs. More - more than ever!"

28 Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, MA
31 Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ

6 Magnetic Hill, Moncton, New Brunswick CANADA

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Quadrophenia Musical

Cold on the heels of the Tommy stage musical in the mid '90s, there is now a stage musical version another Who rock opera, Quadrophenia. The show is currently touring England with hopes of landing on the West End. (I'm assuming this is the British equivalent of playing Madison and Buffalo to fine tune and road test a show on its way to Broadway.) Here's a trailer for it:

The fact that the characters sing will distinguish this from the outstanding movie. The only obvious shortcoming is "Lover Reign O'er Me." I'm a fan of the Who because I'm a fan of Pete Townshend, but "Love Reign O'er Me" is my favorite song in part because it is such a grand showcase of Roger Daltrey's vocal talents. No one can match his towering majesty on that song, and the star of this show has no option but to pale in comparison.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Concert Review: The Church, Showcase Live, Foxborough, MA, July 2, 2009

Steve Kilbey was in particularly good spirits. He praised the venue, noting that the green room was nicer than the whole gig in Detroit. And the place was swell, but it's also a little sad that the Church are playing a club specializing in nostalgia acts and tribute bands, on the far outskirts of Boston with plenty of free parking to appeal to suburb parents like me. Yes, the band got the biggest response to their '80s hits, but the newer material holds its own, especially the enthralling "Space Saviour" off their latest release, Untitled #23. Marty Willson-Piper fingers are just as nimble as ever, and he remains a psychedelic guitar demon.

They opened with "Tantalized," and its swells and delirium magically transported me back to the first time I saw them, touring in support of Heyday in 1986. I felt like I was about to lose control of my bowels. The set bridged their career although was heaviest on #23 and their U.S. commercial peak Starfish.

Steve Kilbey was fit and tanned. While Marty Willson-Piper's long hair made him look like a romantic goth in the '80s, its uniform length, flecks of frizzy gray and his beard have transformed him into an aging hippie. Peter Koppes is merely aging gracefully. The three traded duties and instruments throughout the evening. Koppes and Willson-Piper swapped lead guitar. Willson-Piper and Kilbey swapped their bass and, for some songs, a battered acoustic guitar that looked as though it were held together with electrical tape.

When they exited the stage, someone in the audience yelled out, "You're still beautiful!" While it probably was a request rather than an effort to inveigle the band to return for an encore, especially since he subsequently called out other song titles, it was appropriate sentiment. They were clearly having fun, especially churning out feedback during the two encores.

The Church continued their tradition of having the former frontman of a '90s shoegazer band open for them. In 2006, it was Rob Dickinson of the Catherine Wheel. This time it was Adam Franklin of Swervedriver. The difference is that the Catherine Wheel were rather distinctive in the movement. But, quick, think of a Swervedriver song. Yeah, I couldn't either. Or maybe that one was by Chapterhouse. Franklin and his band built up quite a guitar-based din at times bur rather lacked for well-structured songs.