Thursday, March 15, 2007

Concert Review: Meat Loaf - Winnipeg, Manitoba, March 11, 2007

MTS Centre
Winnipeg, Manitoba
audience: 6000

Would Meat Loaf put on a cheesy show as a pale imitation of his former self or would he rekindle so many memories of the 70s onward with his cannon of theatrical classic rock?

For me and most of the audience, it was the latter. No, he can't sing as well as he could almost 30 years ago, but everyone at the show knew that ahead of time. We sat six rows above the ice, the three left-most seats, so we almost had a side-view. Not surprisingly, the audience ranged from teens to grandparents.

I left less than two songs into the opener, Marion Raven, since she was too loud with just two acoustic guitars, if you can believe it. Raven appears on the latest Bat Out Of Hell album in the duet "It's All Coming Back To Me Now," written by Meat's main songwriter, Jim Steinman. I returned for the main show, armed with tissue paper ready for my ears.

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Aspen Miller with Meat Loaf

The backup singer who sang in the opener, "Paradise By The Dashboard Light," Aspen Miller, is also, not surprisingly, an actress. Age difference aside, it was totally fun to watch her, dressed as a cheerleader, and Meat exchange the classic lines and ham it up. The other back up singer, the equally scantily clad blonde Carolyn Coletti-Jablonski, sang duet on one song with Meat. During "You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth" from the first Bat album, the audience immediately song along, but Meat stopped the show to "chastise" them for not singing louder. The first set was mostly 70s material. The first Bat Out Of Hell album sold 30 million copies and is the 5th best selling rock album of all time. The 1993 follow-up, sold 15 million copies.

The first song in the second set, "The Monster Is Loose," was co-written by Nikki Sixx from Motley Crue and John 5 from Marilyn Manson and it was true bombastic heavy metal, showing that Meat isn't afraid to add a bit a variety to his sound. At the end of the second set, the band gathered at the front for a collective bow, and I thought the evening was over. Short-cropped blonde lead guitarist Paul Crook ran around the stage more than anyone, showing off a collection of several distinctive heavy metal guitars. Crook has been a lead axeman with Anthrax. You can just tell he was busting to put on a show almost by himself.

The lights remained turned off and the band returned for the encore set which kicked off with "Black Betty," made famous in the 70s by Ram Jam. In town filming a movie, barefoot actor Dennis Quaid lept from the drum riser onto the front of the stage and launched into the Van Morrison classic "Gloria," but despite all his energetic running around, he failed miserably on the vocals. I kept on waiting to hear something worthy of his appearance, but he just couldn't do it, despite making an effort. Quaid left and the band tore into "Gimmie Shelter," a Stones' classic.

Meat Loaf spoke about a song offered to him back in 1986, which turned out to be Jim Steinman's "It's All Coming Back To Me Now," which was a smash hit for Celine Dion in 1996. Steinman is the composer behind the first two Bat Out Of Hell albums. The song was meant for Bat II but was passed over in favour of "I'd Do Anything For Love..."

Noticeably absent were video screens showing the concert. The three video screens that appeared at the back of the stage showed some animation from one of his videos, but they were not heavily utilized.

The lineups for t-shirts were surprisingly long. Never underestimate the extent to which baby boomers will go to hang on to cherished 1970's memories. I must have stood in line for about over 20 minutes.

Meat sang his guts out. While the sound wasn't as good as I had hoped (maybe due to where we were sitting), the guy sang like his life depended on it and easily won over the audience. Without a doubt, Meat Loaf is still a viable, competitive recording and touring act, even at age 59.

I would rate this show as 4/5.

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