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Meat Loaf – SECC Glasgow

Meat LoafI never got Queen. The theatricality was always topped by a layer of straining irony, like a defensive shield in place to rebut criticism before it arrived. It seemed to me they strove too hard for plausible deniability, fourth-wall-breaking mugging to the camera designed to let us know that they too were in on the joke. To me it seemed too much like having your cake and eating it. Maybe it’s that British reserve, I dunno. But it seemed staged and it left me cold. Because surely, if you’re going to go for overblown, pompous rock and roll that celebrates every teenage cliché ever dreamed up, you should embrace it? Get your balls out and start waving them. Sure, it’s daft, but it’s not just punk where you can mean it, maaaaan. That’s why I love Meat Loaf.

It’s over 35 years since Bat Out of Hell was released and since then he’s gone in and out of fashion before finally settling in his current guise as an eccentric elder statesman of rock. At 65 years old and coming off a knee replacement op, this has been announced as the last ever tour. As is the current vogue, the set promises an entire sequential run-through of his most famous record. The crowd is surprisingly varied in terms of age, with many people who must have been toddlers or not even here yet when it arrived in 1977 (it arrived on 21 October; I came out exactly four weeks later.)

The first half of the set is a sort of de facto greatest hits backed by an impressive stage show comprising videos which do, quite regularly, indulge in some 70s-style sexism. Nothing offensive, mind; almost quaint images of dancing troupes scantily clad gyrating. It fits.  His voice, it must be said, is not what it was. Not in terms of tone or volume – it appears at times his mic is superfluous – but he can no longer hit the high, operatic notes he once did. No matter; the songs are re-jigged accordingly and the band, expert identikit LA session men all, know how to cover it. ‘Life is a Lemon and I Want My Money Back’ belts past, before long-term backing vocal partner Patricia Russo joins him for a spirited blast through ‘Dead Ringer For Love’. During ‘Out Of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire’, several things happen at once; a saxophone blares with all the parping urgency of an exploding duck, the guitarist appears to put on a Flying V just to do a solo, 86 different musical threads intertwine and the whole thing sounds like God having an orgasm. It’s fucking magnificent. Simply put, if Springsteen had done this, Mojo would be wanking to it at least twice a year. He tops it off with ‘Objects in the Rearview Mirror’ which is overblown, schlocky, beautiful and ecstatic all over the course of 10 minutes. It sums up why he’s great.

As good as this has been, and it has, the crowd didn’t lash out up to £150 a ticket to not hear the main event. And still, 35 years later, what a record it is.  It’s apt that it spawned a couple of sequels – one great, one not so much – as it still has all the cinematic grandeur of a hot summer blockbuster. Each song is prefaced by documentary style clips containing interviews with Jim Steinman, Todd Rundgren or various people involved in the album’s genesis. But as soon as the opening piano riff of the title track hits, well, dull are you of soul if you don’t get a deep and intense rush of warmth in your nethers. A giant bat with laser eyes appears behind the stage as the song plays. Of course it does.

You see, that’s what Meat Loaf is about – silly, huge, theatrical songs about love and sex and women and beer. This is why they invented rock and roll. They did not come up with this so you could listen to Coldplay and cry about the price of Silk Cut. It is a full-throated, shouty, wild, colourful, funny romp. This is what life should be. ‘You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth’, ‘Heaven Can Wait’ and ‘Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad’ are all sublime, but then comes ‘Paradise By The Dashboard Light’, a song which inspired the Hold Steady to exclaim that ‘certain songs get scratched into our hearts.’ And that says it perfectly. It’s just sensational. You wish you’d written it. You do.

There’s a batter through ‘Anything For Love’ and then that’s about it. 150 minutes of wonderful, mental, over-the-top, unforgettable, silly, great music. It wouldn’t do if everyone was like Meat Loaf, but the one that we’ve got has done the job perfectly.

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