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Friday, August 13, 2010
MEAT LOAF: Paradise Revisited
(08.12.10 - Gibson Amphitheatre, L.A.)
Meat Loaf has a stellar body of work. Unfortunately, I've had a hard time distancing that body of work from the goofy-by-association branding of a high school girlfriend and her interpretive dance to "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" at senior prom.
For the past twenty-odd years, the man, the myth and the entree have all been intrinsically tied to said girl grinding what God gave her to the play-by-play of New York Yankees Hall of Famer Phil Rizzuto. There's something about that pink dress with the black bow and the faux go-go dance on a banquet chair in the Stamford Marriott ballroom in 1989, that I just haven't been able to jar from my psyche (insert shivers down spine here).
Until last night.
Other than wanting to hear a handful of songs that are integral to America's rock and roll songbook, I had few expectations heading into the Gibson Amphitheatre, where I'd be crossing one of the final acts off my live concert bucket list. I had heard that there was a chance Meat Loaf would cancel the show due to an illness, to which I was actually sympathetic - yesterday was the first day I was even able to think about leaving the house all week, so if he ate from the same batch of eggs I did, I wouldn't blame him for postponing the show in support of his new release Hang Cool Teddy Bear...
But he didn't, and while I anticipated a fair amount of camp - not the unadulterated kitsch of the Blues Brothers review at the adjoining Universal Studios, but something that could come dangerously close - I was anxious to experience his legend live. His songs are larger than life, combining theatrical pomp with rock and roll stomp, and I believe in paying homage to musical royalty every chance we get.
What I didn't expect, was a show that would top the legacy of the songs themselves - a performance where the man born Marvin Lee Aday would not only allow his personality to share center stage with the music, but at times even ride that personality to new heights, enabling the set to throb with a pulse all its own.
While pop-culture regards "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" as a cute song that's safe to play at proms and weddings, we were reminded that when your first name is Meat and your last name is Loaf, cute is all relative.
Introducing a song he wrote either in Boston, or with someone from Boston, a number of cheers could be heard throughout the crowd. I was only half-paying attention, distracted by the threesome in front of us - two guys in Tommy Bahama shirts and Budweiser hats pawing all over a girl who I'm guessing spent some time in the king-size bed of a pickup truck before the night was through. "Oh, we've got people here from Boston?" razzed my fellow Connecticut native from center stage... "Fuck the Red Sox!"
Amen to that, brother Meat!
I lost count of Mr. Loaf's f-bombs around the same time that Tommy Bahama missed his date/escort's mouth for the fourth time, once again licking her face for all of Orchestra 4 to see. If I didn't know any better, I'd think they were planted as part of the show - Meat Loaf had a flair for profanity, and the menage-a-Marlboro were there to act it all out in kind.
This wasn't your mom's Meat Loaf, it was an R-rated rock and roll revival. During "Paradise by the Dashboard Light," we were joined by an enormous blow-up doll of a woman in various stages of undress, a guy mounted behind her, and his hands demonstrating the Scooter's well-documented voice over as he rounded her two-baggers.
The hits were there, but they were more than just classic rock staples from a veteran rocker regurgitating his catalog for a paycheck. This was equal parts rock show, musical theater, improvisation and audience participation, and everything about it was larger than life, bombastic, and fantastic. "Bat Out of Hell" was smoking hot, "You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth" was a roof-raising celebration, and "I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)" rivaled even "Paradise" in execution.
Taking a seat on a stool for a song, Meat Loaf joked about his age - he turns 63 on September 27 - but he delivered a set that put frontmen a third his age to shame. He even had grown men to the right of me doing chest bumps during "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad."
I didn't need to chest bump, as I was enjoying a revelation all my own. Now, when I hear "Paradise by the Dashboard Light," I don't think of a prissy little package tied with a bow. No, now I think of Meat Loaf - a man that can deliver the hits and still put the 'fun' in erectile dysfunction, his "big surprise" in hand (pictured above) and pumping white loads of cotton t-shirts into the crowd.
Live music is meant to be a celebration, and that's exactly what Meat Loaf made it - a night to remember, and songs we'll never forget.
Getting a picture with Meat Loaf after the show? That was gravy!
MEAT LOAF SETLIST
1- Hot Patootie
2- If It Aint Broke, Break It
3- Bat Out Of Hell
4- Peace On Earth
5- Living On The Outside
6- Los Angeloser
7- You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth
8- Song Of Madness
10- Rock And Roll Dreams Come Through
11- I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)
12- Two Out of Three Ain't Bad
13- Paradise By The Dashboard Light
14- All Revved Up With No Place To Go