What do Kiss, Metallica and Meat Loaf have in common? Well, they belong to an elite sect of musicians who have each performed with some of the world's leading symphonic orchestras. While the former - particularly trash metal legends, Metallica - may certainly seem the least obvious, Meat Loaf on the other hand, with his special brew of rock 'n' roll-meets-cod-opera-meets-Broadway theatrics, is a more apt realization of such an idea.
Originally, the concept of performing the entirety of the Bat Out Of Hell album was first conceived during the production of the studio album in 1976 with songwriter Jim Steinman and producer Todd Rundgren. Of course it didn't happen back then as budgetary concerns largely prevented such an ambitious venture.
This gig was filmed over two nights at Melbourne's famous Rod Laver Arena, which is usually the ground to the Australian tennis open tournaments. Not only is there an internationally respected orchestra led by the revered Keith Levenson, but a team of dancers and the Australian Boys Choir during Testify makes the whole spectacle feel and look like a glossy, professional West-End production.
My central qualm with the show is the ill-advised set list. He may not have played For Crying Out Loud for over 20 years, and of course there is a new album to plug, but surely there can be a few substitutions for forgotten gems like the vastly underrated Read Em And Weep and I'm Gonna Love Her For The Both Of Us? Or even mammoth mid-90's hits like Objects In The Rear View Mirror…(May Appear Closer Then They Are) and I'd Lie For You (And That's The Truth)?
Admittedly, a cover of Mercury Blues - the hidden track from his latest opus, Couldn't Have Said It Better - was highly entertaining and the album's title track sounded great, yet a clunky, overlong start to the show with Life Is A Lemon (And I Want My Money Back) is a bit too much. In fact, a few other songs suffer from exaggerated intros.
As most fans will attest, there is never a dull moment at a Meat Loaf gig. Acting the typical fool while downing a bottle of Victoria Bitter throughout Dead Ringer For Love was hilarious and 'playing' with a bunch of dancers during All Revved Up With No Place To Go was even funnier. He had the audience in complete control and remarkably led them through his classic tracks including the always excellent, crowd pleasing You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth (Hot Summers Night) and of course the exhilarating epic, Bat Out Of Hell.
Despite a probably constant role in most karaoke's across the country, Paradise By The Dashboard Light is still a delight to hear (and see). The interplay between Meat Loaf and the stunning Patti Russo was one of the highlights of the show.
Meat Loaf has a terrific band who has added an extra layer of heaviness to his music. He sounds much better here than in the UK shows (perhaps the sunny climate was a good remedy for him) and proves that he can still hit the higher notes and carry them with vehemence and emotion. He could put any Pop Idol half his age (and weight) to utter shame - above all else, Meat Loaf still remains a fine singer and a true performer completely free of any inhibitions.
As well as commentary from the main man, there is a second disc containing a behind the scenes featurette, a Q&A with Meat Loaf, a look at the bands backstage ritual and a photo gallery. It's a well made, careful collection that slightly extends Meat Loaf's surprisingly short body of live work available on DVD.