THE BREAKDOWN ROOM - Rock. Writing. Redefined.

Resurgent Wave Beginning to Crash for Anvil

It's hard to argue against a band that plays competently while having fun on stage nearly 30 years after its debut release. But after Anvil's March 20 performance at the 9:30 Club, in Washington, D.C., one has to wonder how long the group will survive after the novelty wears off following a resurgence sparked by the award-winning documentary, Anvil: The Story of Anvil.

For a niche, underground band like this to stay relevant in today's music scene, even as a small club act, it must show some confidence in its new material and perform long enough for the music to resonate with concert-goers. Anvil, however, only played three new songs from its latest release, This is Thirteen, in its short, 13-song set.

The new cuts performed included the title track, "Thumb Hang" (which is listed as a bonus track on the U.S. release) and "Flying Blind." Whether that was enough exposure to keep the band from being nothing more than a nostalgia act is a question that has not yet been answered. The remainder of the 90-minute set drew heavily upon the band's 1981 album, Metal on Metal, with five songs being played from that key release in the band's history.

As for the performance, the band was clearly dialed-in. The power trio, consisting of Robb Reiner (drums), Lips (guitar and vocals) and Glenn Five (bass), performed a tight, high energy set.

And one could tell how appreciative the band was of the crowd, which probably filled less than half of the venue's slightly over 1,000-patron capacity. From Lips performing his parts of the opening number, "March of the Crabs," from the pit to the repeated "thanks" given to the crowd during the show, Anvil clearly presents itself as a fan-friendly-band. In addition it is worth noting that the Canadian trio was out mingling with fans within 10 minutes of the group's closing encore number, "Jackhammer."

The biggest problem with Anvil was, frankly, the quality of the music. The reason why such an inspirational band languished in obscurity for so many years until the documentary put them on the map again was intently on display. The music, no matter how well it was played, simply was nothing special. Anvil never matured to become a powerhouse thrash metal band that could proudly stand next to those it influenced. Songs from This Is Thirteen fit in so well with the rest of the back catalog primarily because the songs do not show much growth from those on Anvil's early 1980s releases.

The size of the crowd really demonstrated that Anvil's time in the limelight is once again nearing its end, which is a shame considering how well the band played and how much it appeared the members enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity to be in on stage. But without any real growth as songwriters, it is hard to predict if Anvil will achieve any future success.

Anvil (with Misstallica)
March 20, 2010
9:30 Club
Washington, D.C.

- Gregory Twachtman

Copyright 2010, Brian Heaton. All Rights Reserved.