Welcome to the wonderful world of Meat Loaf, a world where everything is permitted but nothing comes for free. A world of extreme passions and overblown sentiment, peopled with golden girls and lonely all-American boys, where the soul is a chevy peeling out down the highway of life, all revved up but going nowhere fast. Etc.
Almost every Meat Loaf song, and of course in particular those written by the genius that is Jim Steinman, is a mini melodrama, a ten minute soap opera of passion and power… with keyboards, guitar and the greatest voice in rock. And the chance to see these operas come alive on stage is one definitely not to be missed.
Meat's gig at Wembley on the Bat Out of Hell 2 tour was one of the best concerts I've ever attended, up there with Alice at the Barrowlands, and so this long awaited gig, originally scheduled for November but postponed when the mighty Loaf fell ill, had a lot to live up to.
And it has to be said, it took a while for things to get going. The initial excitement of seeing Meat wheeled onto the stage on a gurney by two nurses clad in white PVC to the strains of the intro to 'Wasted Youth' was nicely complemented by the effective setting for opener 'Do It', taken from the current album, Couldn't Have Said It Better. With the stage plunged into darkness, all that was visible were nine creepy glowing yellow masks sported by the musicians, who were all playing fluorescent instruments. So far so cool...
However, the excitement waned slightly during 'Life Is A Lemon', which went on too long for a crowd eager for some really old hits out of hell. Meat's voice sounded somewhat strained as well, arousing fears that he could be losing his magic touch… fears which fortunately proved entirely unfounded. He may not have the lung capacity he boasted back in the 70s but he can still belt out a note like a pro.
And next thing we knew he was launching into 'Dead Ringer For Love' and we were back on track. Suddenly I remembered why I love this strange, starey-eyed fat man so much: because nobody can stir the emotions like he can, from the depths of a beautiful melancholic despair to the heights of the best swinging good time you've ever had.
And so hit followed hit: 'Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth', 'All Revved Up' (complete with entertaining intro in which Meat takes the piss out of his non-appearance back in November), 'Midnight At The Lost And Found' (which really rocked) and so on. All these were interspersed with the obligatory new tracks (including a very moving rendition of 'Did I Say That' - just a shame the drunk twats behind us didn't think so, and insisted on talking at the tops of their voices the whole way through… grr!) which were good, but I'd have substituted them any day for, say, 'Modern Girl', 'Gonna Love Her For Both Of Us' and, my personal fave, 'Heaven Can Wait'.
He ended with a fantastic rendition of 'Paradise By The Dashboard Light', featuring the vocal talents of long time collaborator, the magnificent Patti Russo, a superb singer, with the kind of larger than life stage persona you need when competing with the biggest personality in showbiz, little old Marvin Aday. Even if she does look like Geordie Kate in EastEnders.
But we knew the show couldn't be over yet - how could it, with no 'Bat Out Of Hell'? And so we were treated to a high octane encore beginning with Bat Out Of Hell 2 classic 'I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)' (in which Patti Russo descended from the sky on a purple velvet couch - only at a Meat Loaf gig) and ending with, of course, 'Bat Out Of Hell' which is just one of the best songs ever written and the most awesome live experience.
Okay, so the voice is not quite what it was in the olden days, and occasionally we did get the impression that the band were coasting until Meat remembered the words to certain songs, but he's still a fantastic entertainer, a literal and metaphorical musical giant. This tour was billed as the Last World Tour, but I hope for all our sakes he does a Frank Sinatra and comes back again… and again… and again. The world still has a hell of a lot to learn about rock'n'roll, and we need stars like Meat Loaf to show us the way: fearless, individual and completely bonkers, phenomenally talented and larger than life. Long may he keep on rockin'...