Bat Out Of Hell Live with the MSO

A Review by The Iconic Meat Loaf’s Graphic Designer JennaG

I’m sure like many other Meat Loaf fans, I had thought that the songs on ‘Bat Out of Hell’ would sound amazing with an orchestra, so when I found out that such a DVD existed I knew it was something I’d have to see. I searched music stores and couldn’t find it, but eventually I managed to purchase it from the internet. I was captivated from the moment I first watched the DVD, by the new lease of life these songs had and it quickly became one of my favourite ‘Meat Loaf DVD’s’. It is perhaps for this reason that I have chosen this one first to review for the website.

 

The show begins, a single spotlight focuses on Meat, who is stood on his own on the stage with a white curtain behind him. The crowd are cheering and he smiles whilst chewing the usual piece of gum. The drums start in the background and he begins to walk across the stage surveying his audience. You can almost feel the excitement the audience would be feeling at this point. He walks across the stage, gaining applause, as a drum at the centre of the stage comes into sight. He walks back and forth working the audience, stopping to pick up a drumstick and to point out to the drum to the audience. You can probably guess that he’s going to hit this drum, but Meat is not the kind of man who will just hit the drum without making it into a show of its own. The suspense continues and then bang, he hits the drum and fireworks illuminate the stage. Shots of the orchestra and Meat’s band begin to appear in amongst the shots of Meat pacing the stage. The lights flicker in time with the drumbeats and the electric guitar comes in. Paul Crook joins Meat on stage and by now you can tell what song they’re going to begin with. Meat’s second beat of the drum starts the real show off as the curtain drops and the band and orchestra become visible. The camera focuses on each band member, Patti Russo and CC Coletti, wearing black capes, are playing single drums. Meat now has a New York Yankees electric guitar. The backing vocals join in with the song ‘Life Is a Lemon’. It is not normally one of my favourite songs but this performance really captures me, it’s perfect as an opening song. The theme for this performance is clearly Heaven and Hell as after the chorus Patti and CC remove their capes to reveal their outfits. Patti, wearing white, picks up a stick with feathers and CC, wearing red, picks up a pitchfork and they both join Meat at the front of the stage. Standing either side of him they take it in turns to ask him the ‘what about…’ questions. The ladies return to their regular positions and the song continues. At one point the music pauses and you wonder if the song is actually over but it’s just a dramatic pause before Meat comes in with his powerful voice again. The song finishes and there is a brief pause before the drums come in for the next song.

The song is’ Mercury Blues’, a song originally recorded by K.C Douglas in 1949. I hadn’t ever heard the previous versions of this song prior to watching this DVD so I won’t compare them to Meat’s version. The electric guitar that he had for ‘Life Is a Lemon’ has been replaced by an acoustic guitar. The highlight of this song for me has to be the moment when Meat thinks he’s going to do a guitar solo, but Paul Crook and Randy Flowers don’t give him the opportunity.

 

The next song is ‘Dead Ringer for Love’ which starts with a table set up in the front left of the stage. Patti and CC are sat at the table together talking. Something on the right of the stage catches CC’s eye and she gets up leaving a worried looking Patti on her own at the table. It’s not long before she’s joined by Meat, who looks excited as he sits down. He gives a little cheer as if he knows he’s going to get success. Patti is not amused and at this point Meat goes to pick up the beer bottle on the table but it has been ‘velcroed’ down. It doesn’t look like he’s expecting to have to tug so hard to pick it up. “Victoria Bitter” he says, taking a sip before launching into the song. This is one song I’ve never really cared for that much, but it’s a song I enjoy live. I prefer the sound of Meat’s voice in the live versions and I’ve always preferred to hear Patti sing it than anyone else.

The next song is ‘Testify’, one of my favourite songs. As the intro plays, Meat acts out the scene as if he’s the one being spoken to. The band joins in and he introduces the Australian Boys Choir. Some of the boys look quite nervous but I think they did well and gave the song a new twist.

 

The fourth song in the set is ‘All Revved Up’, which sees several dancers dressed in very little emerge from the back, do a routine at the front of the stage before Meat also emerges wearing a red and white varsity jacket. On the whole I’m not a fan of backing dancers but their routine is good and fits the song well. They add an extra run through of the last verse of ‘All Revved up’ to the end of the song as the dancers leave the stage.

 

The ‘Hot August Night’ speech follows this and leads into ‘Took the Words’ which is one of the songs that I really noticed the orchestra’s performance in. This is the song which Meat usually asks the audience to sing, and although I don’t mind this when you’re actually at the show, I found it went on a bit too long when watching it on a DVD, particularly as the audience just repeat one line.

 

The next song is one of Meat’s newer tracks and is the title track from the album he was promoting at the time, ‘Couldn’t Have Said It Better’. This is another lively track and gives Patti Russo the chance to show off her magnificent vocals. Meat Loaf doesn’t disappoint with his vocals either, hitting some very impressive notes.

‘Out of the Frying Pan’ has always been one of my favourites and this performance really does live up to my expectations. I imagine a song like this is quite hard on the voice but Meat manages it perfectly. Halfway through the song, the music quietens down, and Meat tells the audience that he’s been thinking about every one in the audience. A display of fireworks illuminates the stage on the last ‘fire’ before an instrumental.

 

After such an energetic performance it’s time to slow things down again with a solo from Mark Alexander on piano. Meat introduces the next song, saying that the last time he performed it was in 1978 and he confesses that despite his nerves he has decided to do it anyway. The song is ‘For Crying Out Loud’ and without a doubt this is the best performance on the whole DVD. He really puts his heart into this song and I very much doubt that there isn’t a person in that arena who isn’t moved by it. It brought tears to my eyes and I really think Meat Loaf excelled here. The orchestra makes this song even more spectacular. Meat looks exhausted at the end but he’s nailed it.

 

After introducing the orchestra he announces the next song with a simple ‘a little number I think you all know’ comment. Everyone can guess from the first note played which song is up next and this song has been a part of Meat’s concerts since the very early days. The song is ‘Paradise By the Dashboard Light’ and features the very talented Patti Russo. Meat is helped into a cream jacket and walks back and forth on stage before launching into the first part of the song. Just before Patti is due to come in with her vocals she runs out on stage wearing a blonde wig and a black jacket with Paradise written on the back.

Part of the performance of Paradise includes a make-out scene and just prior to this there is usually a theme that Meat and Patti act out. The theme for this show has Meat and Patti discussing what kind of animals they like. Patti goes first, “What kind of animals that I like” she says, with more enthusiasm every time she says it. After the third time she pulls Meat into an embrace and the make-out scene begins. I’m not a fan of this intro to the make-out scene, and it didn’t seem to fit with the story of the song very well. The make-out scene itself is fine, although it is obvious that they’re not actually kissing. I’ve always wondered how Patti feels about doing this sequence with Meat, but then again they’re both professionals and I suppose it’s no different to someone doing that sort of thing in a film.

 

“Stop right there” she says, pushing Meat away. She begins to ask him whether he will love her, will he never leave her and will he take her away and make her his wife. He says he needs to sleep on this but she’s not amused and she starts hitting and kicking him. At a distance these hits would probably look okay but to me these ‘hits’ don’t look all that realistic but they also have a slightly slapstick look to them which makes it more funny.

Another part of the ‘Paradise’ performance is the ending of the song, Meat repeats the ‘It was long ago and it was far away’ lines over and over again putting on different voices. Patti is quiet and is just pulling faces. After Meat launches into the song again, she resumes her part, earning a ‘shut up’ from him. She returns the’ shut up’ and this exchange continues until she knees him in the groin and he drops to the floor. Unlike the earlier hitting sequence it looked realistic and Meat’s response to it was well acted. Patti looks pleased that she’s won this battle against him, and as he is getting up she sits on his back. Although he appears annoyed at this, there is a smile on his face as he stands up, takes Patti by the hand, and introduces her to the audience.

 

‘It is now the turn of the other members of the band to be introduced. Meat thanks the audience and tells them to never stop rocking before ticker tape starts to fall. Meat and the band leave the stage.

 

The band members come back on stage again for the ‘encores’, which are two of Meat Loaf’s biggest hits. The first of these is ‘Anything For Love’ which earned Meat Loaf a number one in several countries as well as a Grammy. He thanks Australia for making the song number one first in the world. The orchestra are an excellent addition to this song. I wouldn’t say that Meat’s performance is his best but it’s definitely up there as ONE of the best. Patti flies in on a sofa during this performance which is a nice touch. ‘Anything for Love’ leads straight into the final song of the show, truly an epic performance. The orchestra and band are perfect, the vocals are perfect, the energy is electric, I just can’t put into words how amazing this performance is. Music like this has to be seen as well as heard.