Anvil / Growler Sugar, Victoria BC May 31

Anvil / Growler Sugar, Victoria BC May 31
No matter how many documentary films are made about them, or how many alliterated album titles they come out with, Anvil will always toil away in relative obscurity. But that's the cool thing about the Canadian metal legends: They'll never, ever be Metallica, and world tours by private jet are just not in the cards. But Anvil will always fly the flag of metal with unadulterated pride. And sometimes that's all that really matters.

Victoria metallers Growler opened. With simplistic, plodding riffs and a vocalist who sounded like a wounded Danzig at times, a mangled Halford at others, they became intolerable by the end of their set. One particularly nasty track called "Dirty" was like the 2 Live Crew of base-level thrash metal and had a few ladies in the audience bowing out for a timely smoke break.

A curious scene played out before Anvil's set outside the venue. The bouncers held back Anvil drummer Robb Reiner, sporting his patented bandana, as he tried to head up to the dressing room to prepare for his set. "I'm Robb Reiner," he said to blank bouncer stares. "He's Anvil's drummer!" shouted a few fans standing outside, helping the Canadian metal hero past the hurdle of being just another dude in a leather jacket.

Anvil hit the stage to their namesake chant from the hundreds of metal minions in attendance, starting out with a shredding instrumental. Vocalist Steve "Lips" Kudlow was on from the very beginning, telling the crowd how long he's been playing metal and that, for the band and the audience, "growing up is totally optional." After playing metal for more than 30 years, Anvil were tight and completely dialed into their powerful, groove-laden thrash. They hit the timeless Canadian hotspots like "Mad Dog," "Forged in Fire" and the quintessential "Metal on Metal," adding in a handful of new songs off their latest and 14th album Juggernaut of Justice, which matched up to their classics seamlessly.

The most touching thing about Anvil -- and anyone who's seen The Story of Anvil knows this -- is how much they care. After every song, Kudlow was cheering louder than his fans -- for himself. To a certain extent, Anvil is Kudlow's show, as Reiner and bass player Glenn Gyorffy (aka Glenn 5) let him wank his extended solos and tell long stories about the good old days between songs. The guy absolutely lives and breathes metal, so why not let him run with it?

Best moment of the night came when Kudlow pulled out his gleaming metal vibrator during an ultra-extended version of "Mothra" and proceeded to diddle out an extended guitar solo with said device, all the while with that one-of-a-kind demented/fascinated "Lips" look on his face. This went on for a full seven or eight minutes. Let's see James Hetfield try to pull that one off.