Bat Out Of Hell – Live With The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra is a concept that works wonderfully well. Coupling a grandiose recording of one of rock’s most bombastic and biggest selling albums with a world-revered orchestra is about as bold and unconventional as its studio recording – and it sounds equally as superb.
To grasp the sheer impressiveness and robust artistic vision of Bat Out Of Hell you have to travel briefly to the beginning. It was during an audition for a Broadway play that a young Meat Loaf sang I’d Like To Be As Heavy As Jesus in front of the elusive, songwriting genius Jim Steinman.
It would be the genesis of a terrifically wealthy, successful and tumultuous relationship that many (much to Meat Loaf’s annoyance) would dub the Frankenstein and his monster of rock ‘n’ roll.
Bat Out Of Hell stormed the UK charts after Meat Loaf’s immensely entertaining performance of Paradise By The Dashboard Light (with original singer Ellen Foley) in 1977 on the BBC’s late night music programme, The Old Grey Whistle Test. The album would only peak at number nine but would stay in the charts for a staggering 472 weeks.
Due to differences of musical opinions the relationship faded but resumed years later to release the strangely underrated sequel, Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell in 1993 which spawned the phenomenally successful I’d Do Anything For Love But I Won’t Do That single, which is included here as a live bonus track.
The set was recorded over two nights at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena in February 2004 with the Orchestra being led by the American Keith Levenson. It is a perfectly arranged musical relationship where the melodramatic emotions of Meat Loaf’s music and the sweeping prowess of the orchestra make the recording feel like a fantasy as the notes flow together with such loving ease and beauty straight from a J.M. Barrie fairy tale.
For the most part Meat Loaf copes extremely well, even though he does sound a little fatigued at moments as he struggles with some of the high notes were a younger Meat Loaf would have effortlessly sailed thorough such as on the chorus of the title track.
Yet let’s not forget that only a few months before this recording, Meat Loaf collapsed on stage in front of a sold out crowd at Wembley Arena and later had serious heart surgery. You wouldn’t have guess this however on hearing the terrific (and very rare) performance of For Crying Out Loud.
Meat Loaf’s most effective moments, such as the tender Heaven Can Wait, are with just the basic accompaniment of the piano, only faint backing vocals and a melodious, textured orchestration.
So there you have it, Bat Out Of Hell Live is a an absolute treat for fans and a kick in the face for those you think Meat Loaf is past his sell-by date. This CD follows proudly in the wake of the studio album’s success and makes you wonder why on earth Meat Loaf hasn’t worked with an orchestra before.