Havok opened the show with its classic thrash sound, in which you can hear a mix of influences: from Slayer's sense of impending disaster to Overkill's asymmetrical sonic violence to Megadeth's speed-fueled aggression. David Sanchez's vocal style recalls Tom Araya but at a much lower register. During the band's excellent rendition of Iron Maiden's "Number of the Beast," some yobs decided to go for the circle pit stunt even though it seemed more obligatory than necessary.
Up next was Tauntaun, which is essentially a power/speed metal revival band. There's nothing inherently wrong with that sort of thing if you do it with credibility and excellence, which Tauntaun does. From jump, the act's set recalled a bit of Dio, but without all the absurd histrionics and with a great deal more aggression.
Chris Fogal had that gruff-but-more-melodic-than-Lemmy thing down, so that he could come off both menacing and commanding. The guitar solos were fantastically able and solid but never excessive, and the rhythms kept all the band's forces corralled into a dynamically forceful and cohesive expression. Maybe Tauntaun isn't breaking new ground but based on this performance you'd have to count them among the top five metal bands out of Denver.
Steve "Lips" Kudlow started Anvil's set in the middle of the dance floor of the Gothic just playing guitar, surrounded by fans and clearly loving every minute of the enthusiastic adulation showered upon him. After laying down some hot licks, he walked up to the stage and the band kicked into "666."
From the beginning until the end, it was obvious that Lips, Glenn Five and Robb Reiner were having fun doing the very thing in life each of them thought he was here to do and performing in front of one of the most appreciative audiences ever seen at a show in Denver.
During the extended jam of "Mothra," Lips brought out the golden vibrator and employed it masterfully, naturally cheered on by the crowd. In the middle of "White Rhino," Robb Reiner performed one of the most impressive solos behind a drum kit imaginable and re-established his reputation not just as one of the very best metal drummers of all time, but also one of the most talented rock drummers period.
Returning the love and admiration the crowd showed for them, the band played an incredibly energetic show displaying great spirits and good humor. Lips kept telling us how he was having such a great time and promised to come and meet us all after the show.
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Ending the main set with a killer rendition of "Metal on Metal," Anvil came out for an encore of "Jackhammer." Afterwards, Lips kept true to his word and came to talk to anyone who cared to meet him. Like any other true metal fan, Lips knew how much that kind of gesture means to people and proved himself and the rest of the band to be a class act.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: After seeing the Anvil documentary, you can't help but be a fan. Random Detail: Ran into DJ El Brian at the show. By the Way: This was Anvil's first time in Denver. Here's to hoping those guys come back to tour for the next album coming out this summer.
SET LIST DENVER, CO. 01/31/10
01. 666 02. School Love 03. Winged Assassins 04. This is Thirteen 05. Mothra 06. Flying Blind 07. Thumb Hang 08. White Rhino 09. I'm a Mad Dog 10. Forged in Fire 11. Metal on Metal 12. Jackhammer [encore]