When two Jewish teens from Toronto vowed to rock on forever in 1973,Â they forged the musical legacy of Anvil
ByÂ MORDECAI SPECKTOR
The opening scenes of Sacha Gervasi’s hugely entertaining documentary,Â Anvil! The Story of Anvil, show the titular Canadian rock band playing in 1984, before a huge crowd at the Super Rock festival in Tokyo, Japan. Anvil was on the bill with the likes of Bon Jovi, Whitesnake and the Scorpions; all of the bands went on to sell millions of albums, except for Anvil, which somehow took a wrong turn and languished in heavy metal oblivion for more than two decades.
The critically acclaimed documentary (The New Yorker recently devoted two pages to a gushing review by Anthony Lane) chronicles what drummer Robb Reiner (not Rob Reiner, the actor and the director of the classic mockumentaryÂ This Is Spinal Tap) calls the “Anvil factor” — the ultimate realization of a goal, if “you never give up on your dreams.”
Anvil! The Story of AnvilÂ is now showing at the Lagoon Cinema in Uptown. And the bottom line is that you don’t have to be a fan of heavy metal music (it’s not my cup of single malt whisky) to get immense enjoyment from the documentary.
The founders of Anvil, drummer Reiner and vocalist and guitarist Steve “Lips” Kudlow, spoke with the Jewish World last Friday, following a sound check at the Uptown Theatre.
Robb Reiner (left) and Steve “Lips” Kudlow find themselves in the limelight again with the release of an acclaimed documentary film about their band Anvil. (Photo: Mordecai Specktor)
Reiner and Kudlow are touring the United States, with something they call the “Anvil experience,” which features a screening of the documentary followed by a brief live set. Glen (“G5”) Gyorffy now plays bass with the group.
The documentary came about when Gervasi, a London native who joined Anvil as a teenage roadie, got in touch with Kudlow in 2005, and found to his amazement that the group had never disbanded. Gervasi, who co-wrote the screenplay for Steven Spielberg’s filmÂ The Terminal, told Kudlow that he was going to make a film about Anvil.
For Kudlow, the film is the answer “to why everything turned out the way that it did. It was as if everything was meant to happen as it was supposed to, and this was how I was going to make it at the end of the day.”
The likable heavy metal maven adds: “In Jewish, it’s calledÂ beshert.”
Indeed,Â Anvil!Â has put the wind back into the band’s sails; they will be playing rock festivals this year in the U.S. and Europe, and have been on red carpets at film festivals and openings — posing withÂ film starsÂ Keanu Reeves and Dustin Hoffman.
The documentary shows the band on what appears to be a disastrous European tour, which was arranged by an Italian fan under the sway of a delusion that she could manage a rock band. Anvil misses a train, gets lost on the way to a gig and gets stiffed by a club owner because they were two hours late. At a venue in Transylvania that holds 12,000, a grand total of 174 fans show up.
Reiner, whose late father was a Hungarian survivor of the Shoah, comments that “actually it was a pretty good tour.” In the film, Lips allows that things went wrong in Europe, but “at least there was a tour for it to go wrongÂ on.”
Perhaps Kudlow has always been possessed of a supernatural prescience. When Gervasi announced plans for the rock doc, Lips says he knew immediately that it was “going to be the biggest and greatest rock documentary ever made — that was what my first impression was. Why? I’m an unusual person and this guy [Gervasi] chose a real unusual person for a documentary…. Because I have no sense of shame or worry of being judged. I’m completely open. Because that’s who I am. I have no inhibitions whatsoever, particularly when there’s a camera on me — it’s like, let’s go, I’m ready. I’ll tell you everything you want to know, and then even what you don’t want to know.”
Drummer Reiner displays a more reserved demeanor. In his black leather metal regalia, the tall Jewish rocker tells the Jewish World, regarding Anvil’s new life, that there is “no template for this — we’re inventing this as we’re going along.”
While Lips had a day job delivering meals for a school lunch program, Reiner worked as a jeweler — he displays several rings of his making — and a building contractor. The documentary also shows some of his paintings, all in the style of American artist Edward Hopper.
Reiner says that painting is “very therapeutic, very relaxing.” When he’s not performing and recording rock music, Reiner enjoys smoking pot and painting.
Anvil! The Story of AnvilÂ is showing at the Uptown Theatre through Thursday, May 14, then moves to the Lagoon Cinema on Friday. See the movie trailer here:
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