Halfway through Meat Loaf’s concert at the Newcastle arena, a young boy in the row behind me commented: “I feel like I’m at a pantomime!”
The morning after the night before, I see where he’s coming from. For two mad hours of high energy we were treated to a melee of cheeky banter, oversized - sorry, replica-sized - props, a mixture of grim and barmy stage-sets, topped off with the overblown, glorious songs that have defined The Loaf’s career, as well as those from the new album, Hang Cool Teddy Bear. In one word, it was fun. In lots of words, it was this:
With a stupendous roar from the crowd, Meat was welcomed back to the stage he was so abruptly forced to leave after half an hour of a show in 2007. Throughout this concert he mentioned it, joked about it, sincerely apologised for it, and thanked us profusely for coming back tonight.
He began with ‘Hot Patootie’. He sounded just fine. Behind the stage, a large screen played the scene from The Rocky Horror Picture Show (he hasn’t changed a bit!), but the sound was all him and the band.
After ‘If It Ain’t Broke’ and ‘Bat Out Of Hell’, he then introduced us to the new songs. Although ‘Peace On Earth’ shook the earth, and ‘Living On The Outside’ rocked and rolled, it was ‘Los Angeloser’ that was best received by the Newcastle crowd.
‘Song of Madness’, my favourite track from the new album, was thunderous. For all the trouble they had gone to in putting together some imagery to go on the big screen, I’m sorry to say I didn’t notice it; I was too busy watching Meat, my mouth hanging open and my fingers wrapped around my forgotten camera lens. My head rang like Big Ben as he bellowed “carry me to my graaaaaaaaaaaaaaave!”, I didn’t want it to end.
Although The Voice had the occasional crack during the new stuff, it grew in confidence, strength and beauty as the night wore on; varying from high but perfectly held notes to low, sonorous rumbles not unlike that earth-shaking thunder-roll the Tyne-Wear area felt that night during the snow.
The band has changed somewhat. Bassist Kasim Sulton was absent, and pianist Mark Alexander was replaced by the ludicrously talented 30-year-old Justin Avery. His arrangements to the intros of the songs kept me guessing even during ‘Anything For Love’, my most favourite song ever. From the way he was playing you’d think he had 20 fingers.
This tour also sees the return of the lovably feisty Patti Russo as Meat Loaf’s foil. My own “Patti’s Back!” moment came during ‘Anything For Love’ when the duet begins, and she eased into “will you raise me up, will you help me down?” as if she’d never been away.
Even Happy Bob made an appearance! The This Is Spinal Tap-inspired inflatable bat (thankfully 20’ high, not 20” high) grinned stupidly down at us during ‘Bat’, drawing the biggest laugh of the night.
For all I strictly Do Not Dance, once again I had to make an exception. The music was so head-noddingly rock with a lot of roll that many a time I found myself trying to take a photo while dancing. Even after two hours I still hadn’t learned that it was impossible, especially from Row J.
Despite this being the Hang Cool Tour, most of the audience were here for the old songs. Many of the crowd in Block A even sat down during the Hang Cool songs; which, while rather rude, was great for me: being only 4’11” and ten rows from the stage with someone six foot tall in front of me.
Yet everyone was on their feet for the Jim Steinman-penned songs. There was a rather amusing moment near the end of ‘Paradise By the Dashboard Light’ when the crowd simply kept on merrily singing even where lyrics did not appear.
Everyone in the room joined in with ‘You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth’, and everyone simply basked in the heavenly productions of ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Dreams Come Through’ and ‘Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad’.
Over two hours since he first appeared, he and Patti launched into ‘Dead Ringer For Love’ as their encore, before finally bidding us farewell.
With this concert, Meat Loaf laid the demons of his last appearance here to rest, both for himself and for his fans. From the number of times he grinned at us or his band, he was enjoying himself as much as we were.
I judge Meat Loaf’s concerts on how much pain I’m in afterwards. Therefore I am happy to report that I had a headache, my neck was stiff, my spine felt squashed, my leg was aching and my feet were sore. Not to mention the physical and emotional exhaustion that follows.
For the seventh time in my life I had that euphoric, otherworldly experience that only comes when Meat Loaf sings and the band plays live. There are some moments that cannot be compared, repeated, or relived. ‘Took The Words’, the beautiful outro to ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Dreams’, ‘Los Angeloser’, not to mention ‘Song of Madness’ provided some such moments, whether it be for their power, awe, or simply pure unadulterated joy.