Twenty-five years ago today–on August 31, 1989–Meat Loaf played Vancouver’s 86 Street Music Hall, so I went. Here’s my review, published in the September 8-15 issue of the Georgia Straight under the headline “The Bat Out of Hell returns for another bite”.
Meat Loaf was one of the most unusual rock personalities of the ’70s. First off, unlike most rock frontmen, Meat Loaf was fat–and I don’t mean just chubby–yet he’d spend a good part of his time on stage mauling sexy female vocalists like he was some macho stud. As well as a bizarre image, Meat Loaf had songs that were far from the norm–long, complicated numbers that featured narrative intros (“You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth”) and baseball play-by-plays (“Paradise By the Dashboard Light”). But after his hugely successful debut, Bat Out of Hell, the Meat’s popularity dwindled, and he slowly faded from the charts and airwaves.
But now he’s back with a vengeance. Mr. Loaf has found himself an amazing band that includes guitar ace Pat Thrall (the Pat Travers Band, Hughes/Thrall), and former Rainbow skin-basher Chuck Burgi. He’s also back writing with Bat Out of Hell producer Jim Steinman for an upcoming LP. At the first of three sold out shows at 86 Street Thursday, the Big Guy proved that he’s still a force to be reckoned with.
Stomping out in a big black shirt, big black pants, and big black boots, Meat Loaf proceeded to get the attention of the crowd by pointing his big arm at randomly selected members of the audience and staring them down with a maniacal expression that screamed, “What are you lookin’ at!”
Physique aside, Meat Loaf knows how to play a heavy real well. “We’ve got a thousand people here tonight,” he proclaimed after sweating it out on “You Took the Words”. “The hundred of you up front are singing along just fine, but the other 900 suck! You better smarten up or I’m gonna have to start kickin’ some ass!”
A lot more people sang after that.
After just three tunes, Meat Loaf’s shirt was soaked with sweat, and he made steady trips to his stash of Gatorade. Throughout the show he played out a running boy-meets-girl scenario with one of his two sultry blonde vocalists that was alternately cute and rude but always entertaining. His exceptional two-hour-plus show ended with an encore of “Paradise” and a medley of “Johnny B. Goode”, “Slow Down”, and “Roll Over Beethoven”.
All in all it was one of the year’s most impressive shows.