Meaf Loaf is a charismatic special-effect on the Everything Louder Tour

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By Steve Newton

Boy, there sure are some wacky folks working in the Georgia Straight production department. As soon as they heard I was going to see Meat Loaf on August 22, while the PNE was on, all Brigit and Dwayne could think about was the idea of me buying some of those tasty little PNE doughnuts and lobbing them in Mr. Loaf’s general direction.

That never happened, for a number of reasons: the press box is too far from the stage for accurate doughnut-tossing, all the doughnuts got eaten on the way to the Coliseum, and Meat Loaf didn’t deserve to be pelted with sugar and cinnamon-covered circles of dough in the first place. He put on a great show, even if it had more to do with musical theatre–or opera–than rock ‘n’ roll.

Still larger than life, the mighty Meat Loaf came charging out with a guitar strapped to his wall-sized back and tore into “Out of the Frying Pan (And into the Fire)”, a song from his 1993 comeback release, Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell. Six-foot-high flames spewed savagely upwards at the front of the stage, but that retina-scorching spectacle did not foretell a night of outrageous pyrotechnics and flashy effects. You hardly need ’em when the star of the show is a special effect himself.

And what an effect he has. Meat Loaf is a mountain of charisma, and it’s hard not to get caught up in his adrenalized performance. Unsafe, too. In the middle of “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth”, he stopped the show to loudly chastise the first three rows on the floor for not singing along, threatening to come down and “kick some ass” if the reluctant vocalists didn’t shape up.

People seemed to sing along more enthusiastically after that.

If Meat Loaf performed any tunes that weren’t on either his breakthrough Bat Out of Hell album of ’77 or last year’s sequel, I didn’t notice. But whether dragging out old Bat tunes like “Paradise by the Dashboard Light’ or new Bat tunes like “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t do That)”, the pure power of Loaf’s thundering vocals overwhelmed. He also had a very good band, which included former Pat Travers Band guitarist Pat Thrall and keyboardist-guitarist Kasim Sulton from Todd Rundgren‘s Utopia.

The weakest part of the show came when Meat got just a tad too heavy with his supposedly heartfelt speech about it being such a great privilege and a huge honour to be able to perform for 11,000 fans in Vancouver. His sentiments came off as overblown and dramatic, but then, so do most of his histrionic songs. That’s the Meat Loaf way; it works for him. And 25 million Bat Out of Hell buyers can’t be wrong.

Or can they?

The sound production was not great during Meat Loaf’s two-and-a-half-hour show, but it was a lot worse for openers Cheap Trick, who sounded god-awful at the start of their set and just plain bad at the end. Maybe they missed soundcheck because loony-tunes guitarist Rick Nielsen was out frying his brains on the PNE’s new Corkscrew ride. At any rate, the band rocked admirably while dredging up old ’70s gems such as “Ain’t That a Shame” and “Dream Police”.

Twenty years ago, I saw them do the same thing at the same venue while opening for Kiss on its Destroyer tour, and when Nielsen brought out that famous five-necked orange guitar for “Surrender” it was flashback city. Back then, Cheap Trick’s explosive power-pop tunes and the quartet’s half-nerds/half-rockers image were enough to give Gene Simmons and company a run for their tongues. At the Coliseum last Sunday, in the sizeable shadow of Meat Loaf and with that debilitating sound, no one seemed to care–even when vocalist Robin Zander pleaded, “I want you to want me.”

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