Anvil were in Singapore, where it has been a tough time for rock-starved Heavy Metal fans. The dreaded Covid lurgy spread its phlegm across the world and brought the global live music scene to a standstill. Whilst in the West, where we’ve had to wait for a meandering 18 months before things returned to some kind of normality, spare a thought for those in the cautious Far East, where restrictions have only recently been lifted, meaning that no Western rock artists have ventured out this way for almost three painstaking years.
Esplanade Annexe Studio, Singapore – 28 February 2023
Words: Mark Taylor
Scorpions and Whitesnake were the last international acts to perform here before the pandemic in a double billing on a most historic evening in March 2020, literally on the eve of the country’s complete lockdown.
In the past couple of months, only Italian gothic outfit Lacuna Coil and the instrumental rock fusion of The Aristocrats have dipped their toes in Singapore. But what the scene really needed was some authentic Heavy Metal from Anvil to totally blast the Covid-19 cobwebs away for eternity.
Anvil have had their share of being caught up in the Covid chaos themselves when they were bulldozing their way through a UK tour to promote their Legal At Last album, defiantly playing to as many cities as they possibly could before getting the order to board the last plane back home to Toronto, Canada.
The 2008 documentary film Anvil! The Story Of Anvil may have revitalised the fortunes for our Canuck heroes, but the band are working harder than ever before, having just released their nineteenth studio album, Impact Is Imminent, which was recorded during the global lockdown, undercover in Germany.
Their current tour has already seen them going right across their native homeland, a gruelling three-month pounding across Europe, and once these Far East Asian dates are done, the band will be in North America again, hitting the USA for a second leg that will keep them busy until the end of May.
Anvil are no strangers to Singapore, having first performed here a decade ago as special guests of Metallica at a humongous outdoor event at the Changi Exhibition Centre. The trio won themselves many new friends on that sunny day, and there was a Hope In Hell chance of Anvil refusing the offer to perform here again for a second helping.
Support for this Singapore date was from local bruisers Deus Ex Machina. Unfortunately, like a true professional, I missed them, having to take cover from the torrential downpour of the monsoon rain, finding sanctuary drinking Trooper beers in the nearby rock bar, The Flying V, before a couple of locals escorted me through an underground labyrinth of tunnels to the venue of the Esplanade Annexe Studio situated near the Marina Bay.
Celebrating the fact that I managed to stay dry, it was time for more Trooper beers before Anvil hit the stage, launching into the instrumental March Of The Crabs. Within seconds frontman Lips walks out into the crowd with his sparkling red Flying V guitar, and a circle of amazed Metallers cheer him on to every riff before Lips holds the guitar up to his face and proclaims, “Singapore, are you ready to rock? We are Anvil, and we play Heavy fucking Metal” to wild applause.
After a devilish number in 666, heads were soon banging to the fan vote of the neck-breaking old-school classic School Love. Despite getting an authoritative letter before the gig from the nation’s Central Narcotics Bureau warning of the zero tolerance towards illegal substances, that didn’t stop Lips from cheekily declaring it’s Legal At Last in their homeland before tearing into that title track of their smoking previous album.
Lips was certainly in the mood for some lively chat telling a story of the time that Lemmy wanted him to join Motörhead when Fast Eddie Clarke decided to jump ship, but his loyalty remained with Anvil, the band he formed with his high school pal in drummer Robb Reiner, a friendship that now stretches back 50 pounding years. That rejection actually impressed Lemmy, who invited Anvil to support Motörhead on the Another Perfect Day tour in 1983. This tale led to the confident stride of sticking to your guns and dreams of Take A Lesson from the new album Impact Is Imminent.
Bassist Chris Robinson was enjoying his first visit to Singapore, having joined the band nine years ago. He’s the perfect compliment to Lips for some zany antics and moves during the mighty Mothra, which also sees Lips doing his extended guitar workout with the aid of something that an overworked lady from the nearby Geylang red light district would use for some late-night satisfaction.
Bitch In The Box, with its hilarious lyrics of Sat-nav drama, is a headbangers delight with its big bumpy riff. Robb Reiner gets to express his prowess on the jazzy instrumental of Swing Thing, before pulverising into Ghost Shadow, another welcomed new track from Impact Is Imminent.
With its spark flying and grinding riff, the anthem Metal On Metal roars into life with voices raised from the Singaporean crowd who sing along to every word.
Lips ends the gig exactly the way he started it by getting down amongst the fans who clamour around him for a prized selfie or a shake of hands whilst the PA belts out Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline.
It was a night of Badass rock ‘n’ roll bringing joy to so many faces who will cherish this night for a considerably long time.
Esplanade Annexe Studio – Set List
March Of The Crabs
Legal At Last
Take A Lesson
Badass Rock N’ Roll
Free As The Wind
This Is Thirteen
Bitch In The Box
Metal On Metal