wed 20/01/2021

Meat Loaf, Wembley Arena | reviews, news & interviews

Meat Loaf, Wembley Arena

Meat Loaf, Wembley Arena

Veteran rocker has an admirable go at revisiting his glory days

It’s often assumed that people who write about music just sit around listening to achingly hip bands and rare grooves. Not true. You’ll often catch me listening to such Jeremy Clarkson-endorsed combos as Genesis or ZZ Top. Meat Loaf? Certainly. Guilty pleasure? As charged. Phil Spector may have had his pocket symphonies for the kids, but Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman gave them six-minute operas. To my mind there hasn’t been a song written that conjures up the glorious tragedy of being 16 quite like “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad”. The thing is though, the Loaf, he ain’t 16 anymore.He’s in his sixties. Or as he insisted tonight, his sexties.

Of course there were no concerns about him looking preposterous. He’d already built a career on that. But the question on the minds of the fortysomethings winding their way past Wembley’s food concessions was: can the veteran singer/actor Michael Aday still become Meat Loaf? Even in his heyday that was a lot of energy to squeeze out of that generously proportioned body. And when you’re over 60? (I mean sexty.)

As it turned out, with the help of an all-star band, props straight from Spinal Tap, and the incomparable Patti Russo, Aday came very close to pulling it off. His given reason for playing this tour was to promote his new album, Hang Cool Teddy Bear – an album whose ludicrous title maybe gives a clue as to why Loaf stuck with branding previous albums Bat Out of Hell II and III.But obviously he knew the real draw was the hits. He seemed to want to surprise and win old fans over by stealth. In fact, he’d actually arranged for every single punter to be presented with a plastic-cased copy of the album as they got their entry ticket torn.

So, the new songs were snuck in between the old classics as if to say, “look how well they sit here”. But of course the evening started off with a classic. In “Hot Patootie” Meat reprised his role as Eddie in Richard O’Brian’s counter-culture musical, The Rocky Horror Picture Show. And it set a suitable keynote for much of the camp theatrics that followed. Next up, the non-hit “If It Ain’t Broke, Break It” left most of the crowd looking non-plussed. And then, only three songs into the set suddenly there it was: “Bat Out of Hell”, performed straight and in its entirety. Was it any good? Not bad, as it happens. The band were as tight as a drum, particularly Paul Crook on guitar and Justin Avery on piano. And the slimmed-down Aday, whilst not moving with the improbable energy of yesteryear, still had 75 per cent of his voice, which still gave him the potential to be one hell of an entertainer. But the problem he had in all the big songs was this: he tried too hard. He seemed to want to extract more and more from each note, with the resultthat many of them were too long or slightly out of tune.

Where he stuck faithfully to the tunes everything was hunky-dory. And so “Peace on Earth”, “Living on the Outside” and “Los Angeloser”, as unfamiliar as they were, but with Meat singing straight, really did seem to win friends. Of patti_russocourse it’s hard not to be charmed when Patti Russo is up on stage wiggling in a spangly dress as co-singer, sidekick and most attractive thing on stage. I worried for the 46-year-old from New Jersey, a couple of years back when I saw a poster announcing she was playing a small pub in Sussex on her "Bible and a Beer" tour (pictured right). I assumed she’d got God, and was evangelising England one watering hole at a time. But it turned out that it was a new record she was promoting, one boozer at a time.

Mind you, you couldn’t blame her if she had got Jesus or turned to liquor. Having a sweaty Meat Loaf rubbing his head in your cleavage, as he did in “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”, could do that to any girl. “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”, as amusing as it was in places, also epitomised the weaker side to some of the classics. With the giant inflatable woman and penis-shaped T-shirt gun, it descended into pantomime. It was trying too hard again. Like in“Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad", where the overblown delivery made it kitsch when it should have been a proper tearjerker.

Of course with a character like Meat Loaf, the balance of seriousness and levity, and theatre and emotion, will always be delicate. Elsewhere in the gig there were genuine thrills, such as “Boneyard” where Imelda May joined Meat and Patti on stage. And with many of the favourites like “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth”, “All Revved Up with No Place to Go”, and the closer “Dead Ringer for Love”,all the right notes of escapism and fantasy were hit, just like in the old days. And that was really what this gig was all about. Nostalgia. For some, back then, no matter what they looked like, for six minutes, Meat Loaf made them feel like the romantic lead in a John Hughes movie. He can’t still do that, but last night, for a couple of hours, he made a lot of people feel that they were still young.

Watch (a young) Meat Loaf performing "You Took The Words Straight Out of my Mouth":


No doubt that the big man pleased the crowd last night. The arena was full of the faithful, singing along as instructed. Lotta love out there - a lot of it quite young love as well amongst all the old rockers. Despite occasionally failing to make it all the way to the high notes Meat put on a Hell of a show. the kitch inflatables were priceless... Not bad for an old bike with some seriously rough miles on the clock.

To me Meat is at the top of his consderable game on this tour, singing better than he has in years. His vocals are amazing and confident, and I heard no "out of tune" notes .. his final "dashboard liiiight" at the end of the second verse of Paradise was delivered at he top of his range faultlessly .. and Paradise is meant to be pantomime :) That's the joy and spectacle of a Meat Loaf show. He moves round the stage with an energy that would defeat many much younger performers .. Meat always gives it his all, and this time he and a superb band are having fun with fresh new arrangements, and Meat clearly delights in their skill. (It's PAUL Crook btw). I've rarely seen Meat and his band have such fun, and I've not missed a tour since 1978. Still packed with emotion .. never confuse passion with struggle or trying too hard, he wrings every last drop of emotion in every song, and last night delighted an audience which spanned the age groups with a brilliant blend of classics and fresh new songs from his new album which is imo his masterpiece .. Meat finally unleashed to go wherever his musical creativity wants to run .. and that's some distance! Yes, it was a hell of a show .. and a supercharged bike that has the Meat of yester-year slam dunking a hands down winner!!

Great article Russ.

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