One of the best live concerts I ever saw – and I've see a lot of 'em – was Meat Loaf back in 1989 at the old Ritz in New York City. This was back before Bat Out of Hell II came out, when he was still languishing in the Where-Are-They-Now nether regions of rock obscurity. I saw two different shows on that tour, and the crowds were made up of die-hard fans who had not forgotten or given up on Meat Loaf, despite the fact he hadn't had a hit album in over a decade.
Then, in the early 1990s, Meat Loaf released Bat Out of Hell II, the follow up to his seminal 1977 album Bat Out of Hell, and suddenly he was back on the charts with a phenomenal comeback, and he was no longer playing in smaller rock clubs, but huge arenas. All of which culminated in the 2003-04 concert tour, which included a special two-night performance in Melbourne, Australia, featuring the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
At first, the thought of Meat Loaf performing with a full, 64-piece symphony orchestra might seem strange – maybe even ridiculous. But then when you stop and consider the fact that most of Meat's songs were written by Jim Steinman – the one rock songwriter whose music was meant to be performed by an orchestra – it all makes sense. In fact, Steinman and Meat Loaf had long wanted to have the original Bat Out of Hell performed by an orchestra, it just took three decades to make it happen.
Die-hard fans of Meat Loaf – of which I am one – will be torn by this concert disc. On the one hand it offers a great live performance by an over-the-top performer who has for years embodied over-the-top performing. But on the other hand, there is a glitzy, Las Vegas quality to the show that makes it seem like a parody at times. It seems more like a review of classic show tunes than a rock concert. If you didn't know any better, you would never know that the album Bat Out of Hell was basically about what it's like to be 17-year old boy with a raging hard on.
Meat Loaf: Live with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra was shot on video, and is presented letterboxed.
Meat Loaf: Live with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra is presented in 5.1 Surround Sound. The audio quality is good, but like any recording of a live concert, it doesn't capture the sound of being live at the show.
A second disc of bonus features is largely a waste of time. The behind-the-scenes featurette is a one-joke gag that isn't that funny, and doesn't actually offer any behind-the-scenes insight. There is a brief Q&A with Meat Loaf, but that's only slightly more amusing than the featurette. The one bonus feature that is good, however, is Meat Loaf's audio commentary of the concert itself. In fact, the commentary is even more entertaining than the concert, with Meat Loaf cracking a series of jokes, but also talking about some of the history behind the songs he's recorded. He doesn't take the commentary too seriously, and the result is an entertaining audio track that is laid back and entertaining. For the more serious fans of Meat Loaf, the commentary track is the real reason to check out this disc.
David Walker is the creator of BadAzz MoFo, a nationally published film critic, and the Writer/Director of Black Santa's Revenge with Ken Foree now on DVD [Buy it now]