Review by Sean Palmerston; live photos by Albert Mansour
Tuesday night brought a great double bill to Hamilton Place. Part of the after-effect of the awesome Anvil documentary film has been the band getting some excellent support slots and festival play. The past year has seen Anvil open for acts like AC/DC and play at the Download and HEAVY MTL festivals. This spring the band has been invited to open a number of Canadian shows for shock rock legend Alice Cooper and one of them was less than five blocks from my house.
Arriving early just in case, it was a good thing we did as Anvil ended up onstage seven minutes earlier than their previously announced set time of eight PM. Quietly strolling on stage and taking their instruments, the trio gave a quick nod and got down to business. Much to my surprise, the band opened with an instrumental, the mighty “March of The Crabs”. The band was in fine form from the first note, with Robb Reiner comfortably holding the backbeat down like he always does. Playing on a sparsely set stage – just the band, their instruments and amps and a huge Anvil backdrop behind them, things really started to take shape with the evening’s second song, “Mothra”. The band played an extended arrangement of the Metal On Metal classic that I had never heard before, which even included Lips pulling out his trademark vibrator to deliver some slide work. I really like the way they jammed the song out, which found Lips adding a spoken word section over a cool bass run by Glenn Five.
After the two classic songs, the band then played two brand new tracks. The band’s brand new album Juggernaut of Justice was released the previous Tuesday, so it was natural they would want to showcase a few new tunes. The title track was first, with the band playing a spot on version of the album’s lead off tune. After that the band played the song destined to become a new Canadian hard rock anthem, “Fuckeneh!”. Lips had the crowd singing along and was quickly winning over any non-believers. “White Rhino” gave Robbo another chance to show off his incredible drum skills. Lips told the crowd he’d play faster and heavier the more they clapped: it didn’t get as crazy as it could of but it was a damn good version anyway. The band’s quick opening set (it was only thirty-four minutes by my watch) ended with – what else! – “Metal On Metal”. Lips had the audience singing the chorus along with him in unison and by the end of the track the entire floor of the theater were on their feet giving the local veterans a standing ovation for a job well done.
It was less than thirty minutes later when the headliner hit the stage. Dropping the massive banner that covered the stage during changeover, Alice Cooper and his current band hit the stage with a classic from Welcome to My Nightmare, “The Black Widow”. Alice was fifteen feet high in the air, standing on a large pedestal wearing a spider costume, waving his eight arms back and forth while the band plodded on. I only recognized one member of his band, Steve Hunter, who of course played in the band after the original Alice Cooper Band left and became the Billion Dollar Babies, but his backing troupe were very tight. Recent song “Brutal Planet” was next. I am not a fan of that song or the album it comes from, but it came across okay live. It was also the last new song for a bit.
The sold out audience at Hamilton Place were ecstatic over the next few songs. Alice and co. delivered a tasty half-dozen of his greatest hits back to back: “I’m Eighteen”, “Under My Wheels”, “Billion Dollar Babies”, “No More Mr. Nice Guy”, “Halo Of Flies” and “Is It My Body” all in a row was almost too much to take. Alice had various props, from a walking cane to a live snake to a mannequin doll and made the most of what he had. He is still an excellent performer in all rights, even if his new songs don`t hold a candle to his classics. Alice rolled out a new song, the sweetly-titled “I’ll Bite Your Face Off” that sounds tailor made for the current FM rock scene. Of course, Alice would know that too, since his syndicated radio show plays every weeknight on stations from coast to coast. It wasn’t a terrible song, it just was not as good as you know Alice is capable of.
I had already seen what I came for, the half-dozen classics were pretty much almost every thing I thought I`d have a chance to see, but I did stick around for “Only Women Bleed” and “Cold Ethyl” too. Anvil was my main course for the night, hearing these Alice Cooper classics was merely a decent desert. When “Feed My Frankenstein” started, I decided to call it a night, not wanting to hear any of the sub-part eighties material that seemed around the bend. I’d had a nice taste of classic Alice and went my own way looking for a bar playing that night’s NHL playoff game, still hopeful that the promised classic Alice Cooper Band reunion tour may hit somewhere nearby sometime soon. Fingers crossed!