In Search of Paradise

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

I thought that rather than review another concert DVD, I’d have a look at the work that goes into a tour and with great respect for Meat Loaf himself, by reviewing ‘In Search of Paradise’, which was filmed at the start of the 2007′s 3 Bats Live tour.

Although this is not the first tour documentary I have seen, and I always find this kind of thing interesting. After all, when you think of it, how many fans actually think about the amount of work that is goes into putting on a show?

Rather than glamourising the touring process, ‘In Search of Paradise’ actually shows the fans how tough making the performance become reality really is. At the beginning of the DVD, Meat Loaf is already seen stressing, claiming that he couldn’t sleep the previous night.

The DVD begins with Meat Loaf arriving at the rehearsal space, he seems in a reasonably good mood and he even takes a photo of the inflatable outside. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t things on his mind, as straightaway he makes it clear to the directors that no one could know what the documentary is about, because it is about what is happening in the present. The next thing we see is Meat rehearsing for the show.

It’s clear at the rehearsal stage that Meat is a creative man and he likes to be involved in the creative process. He listens to the suggestions his band makes, and offers feedback and suggestions to them in return. During this first rehearsal session Meat gets a visit from his wife, Deborah, who has their two dogs with her. She speaks briefly about how involved her husband is in the creative process but she will offer her suggestions if it will help. At the start of the DVD it is mentioned that Meat cancelled interviews that the director had scheduled with his daughters, but I’m glad they had someone close to Meat speaking about how involved he gets.

The next day, Meat visits his vocal coach, although he says he’s there to ‘pet the dog’ and picks the dog up before going into the house to do some warm up exercises. He rolls his eyes as Eric gives him instructions. Part of me wonders if he’s a little bit uncomfortable with the presence of the cameras during this, but I also feel that it gives fans an insight into how singers look after their voices.

A featured song at a Meat Loaf concert is ‘Paradise by The Dashboard Light’, hence the name of this DVD. During day two of rehearsals we see Meat rehearsing with Aspen Miller. The make-out scene between Meat and Aspen is choreographed, whereas with Patti Russo it seems more improvised. Thatr could be because Patti has performed the song with Meat numerous times and was used to working with him or it could be that Patti follows Meat in a way that no one else does. I don’t know. Following the rehearsals, Meat sets off for his tour, and we see that travel delays can happen to a rock star and his band. We see how upset Meat is at the stress that this has caused his band. At least they have a day before the first show of the tour. Whilst Meat and his band are at the hotel we get a short insight into the setting up of the venue. I think it’s pretty impressive how they can take a blank arena and turn it into the spectacular stage that Meat will perform on. It’s hard work but they all work as a team.

Finally we get to show day and the documentary wants to film Meat preparing for the first show, but because his voice is already hurting, they aren’t allowed to observe. This is the first time we really see that a request to film something is denied. Although I understand why Meat didn’t want to be filmed, it is a bit disappointing for those who may have purchased the DVD hoping to get that ‘access all areas’ idea of what goes on, on a tour. Some of the people that know Meat are talking about the fact that he likes his privacy, which does make me wonder how he actually felt about the documentary when it was being filmed. I don’t know if it was something he chose to do, or whether there was some contractual thing forcing him to do it. With all due respect to Meat and in my opinion, Meat loves the camera, he loves the attention and people enjoy seeing him react to the cameras.

A pre-show ritual we do see is ‘the kill’, which all the band members and surrounding crew come together in a circle and Mark Alexander leads them in a chant. It’s an experience that bonds them as a group and something I’ve not seen on the other behind-the-scenes documentaries.

The first show according to the annotations is a success and it gained mainly positive reviews. Critics are hung up on the staging of ‘Paradise’, and this DVD shows how much this ends up bothering Meat. Later on we see him trying to think of ideas to stop it looking so creepy.
Prior to the next show we see Meat meeting with a small group of fans. It is not known how these fans got to meet Meat but I’m assuming it was through a fan club or competition. The segment is short, and I felt that they could have spent longer on showing how Meat interacts with his fans and puts them at ease. He says goodbye to the fans and hopes he has a good show for them, and he goes off to prepare for the show. This time we actually get to see some of the preparation he undergoes for the show, but even this is not as revealing as some fans may be hoping for. After the show we also get to see how much a performance takes out of Meat, as he is led on the floor in his dressing room. He really looks tired, almost like someone who has completed a hard workout. I suppose for him, his shows are like a workout and even performers half his age would struggle with the shows he puts on.

The Calgary show is the real turning point of the tour. Not only is Meat not feeling well, but he also gets some reviews which make him think again about the staging of ‘Paradise’. A doctor is called out to see Meat at his hotel after the show, and they try to interview the doctor, but obviously because of patient confidentiality the doctor is not allowed to say much about Meat’s condition. I don’t know why they even bothered trying to interview the doctor in the first place. There was no harm in just putting an annotation or something saying that a doctor had visited Meat at his hotel to check him over. The following morning Meat is awake early thinking about the show. The ‘Paradise’ thing is obviously bothering him, and he sends the band out to find costumes for his new idea as he’s packing ready to move on to the next show. Whilst waiting for the new costumes to be finalised, Meat decides to see if he can tweak the staging to soften the performance of ‘Paradise’. He and Aspen are seen discussing the issue with one of the crew members, and in the end Aspen comes up with the best suggestion. They go up on stage to rehearse the new idea. This is one thing I’m glad was included in the DVD, as it shows how a response to something in a show is taken on board and how it can influence future shows. It shows Meat Loaf’s dedication to giving the best show that he can. The next day we see Meat at a shop trying on wigs, this is for the new performance of ‘Paradise’, where he’s planning to look exactly how he did in the 1970′s complete with the long hair. They’re using an earlier photo as a reference but I’m not too sure on the end result. To me the wig is a little bit too light in colour, and the hair is too fine and straight, but then again there are limitations to what can be achieved with a wig. Meat is happy though.

It’s finally time for the London show where the DVD will be taped, and obviously there is more pressure on everyone. Meat arranges to have his vocal coach flown in to help him prepare, and we see Kasim Sulton giving him a pep talk. The new costumes are in place and it’s Show Time. His entrances never seem to be huge things with special effects and props, but in this DVD you can see the difference between the man that climbs those steps, to the performer that emerges on stage. It’s as if he finds an energy which you wouldn’t think possible for a man who is approaching 60. As a taster on this DVD, we get to see the performance of ‘Paradise’ with the new staging and costumes. Unfortunately Meat’s not at his best vocally during this performance, but it’s still worth watching because of the way that he and Aspen play out the song. An exhausted looking Meat is asked what he thought of the new ‘Paradise’. He laughs a he says he’s not sure if it hit his vision. At the end of this show we see exactly what it takes out of Meat, as he’s led on the floor backstage with an oxygen mask. I’ve known for quite a while that this happens to him quite a bit, but it was quite sad to actually see it on a DVD. I might be the only person who felt this, but it made me feel a bit awkward about wanting to go to one of Meat’s shows, if this is what he puts himself through to be able to put on the most spectacular of shows. However, I was also full of respect the effort he puts towards a show. People hear all the time about those who are in the industry to ‘be rich and famous’, but this DVD shows that there artists out there who are still in it for the love of music.

Although I feel this DVD doesn’t give the access-all-areas access that some people may be hoping for, it shows both the positives and negatives of putting on a tour and is definitely worth watching.