Last night we went to watch Meat Loaf at the Vector Arena and some 12 hours later I am finally able to write about it.
I must say, having never really been into watching live bands in my youth, I decided some time back that, if the opportunity ever arises, now is the time to watch all those artists you will probably only ever get one more shot at seeing. We watched The Who at North Harbour stadium a couple of years back and they were excellent. Townsend seemed to have overcome his obsession with internet research and returned to his full glory on the guitar, Daltrey was vocally as powerful as ever and I still have a wry amusement at the fact that the drummer is the son of a Beatle and older than me.
Then it was Todd Rundgren, who played a fantastic blues set in front of about 80 people at the Auckland Powerstation. That gave me a feeling of being entertained on a truly exclusive level.
After that, The Hollies at Ascension Vineyard - memorable both for the fact that we were treated as VIPs on account of the unfortunate chainsaw accident that resulted in me turning up on crutches and the novelty of sitting on the floor, sipping wine, watching a a very accomplished and entertaining performance...and definitely even more memorable for the sheer number of totally paralytic over 60 year olds staggering around the car park afterwards.
So, after three really top drawer performances, shelling out $200 for me and the present Mrs Chipshaker to watch Meat Loaf in all his glory seemed a bit of a bargain.
The doubts started to set in when I watched the You Tube clip of Meat's performance at the AFL Grand Final. To say it was a bit ropey is something of an understatement, particularly as the supporting singer on Paradise by the Dashboard Light out-performed him. But it was only a 20 minute set, in a stadium, and probably a bit windy, so no-one can blame him for being a bit rusty. I did casually try to flog the tickets at face value at that point but no-one was biting.
No matter - if nothing else, it was a lovely opportunity to have some quality social time with the Missus without the kids.
My hopes shot up when Meat cancelled the Tauranga show due to health reasons. Having seen the announcement that anyone who couldn't make the rescheduled show next Tuesday would get a full refund, I began thinking there might be a way out if he couldn't make Auckland either. I mean, how hard can it be to have a subsequent engagement on the rescheduled date? I checked the internet the whole day long in the hope that he would cancel and even turned up with the faint hope that it was still possible.
Obviously Meat is as smart as I am because the bugger cottoned on to that and was determined to be there last night.
Oh well, how bad could it be - we are here now and we might as well make the most off it. If it's going to be bad we should just revel in the badness of it. Ever the entrepreneur, the first thing I did was buy a tour t-shirt. I reckon they would be worth a fortune if he croaks on stage (430,000 people have watched Tommy Cooper shuffling off this mortal coil on YouTube).
It started pretty well actually, with Meat cashing in on the Rocky Horror connection to get the audience going. You couldn't help but notice though that his voice wasn't quite there and he was looking slightly slow on his feet but it was okay. The band were bloody good, although I suspect they were deliberately just that bit louder so that you couldn't quite pick up how rusty the vocals were. To be honest, it was a steady decline. Having "Bat out of Hell" as the third song in the set left me wondering what was being held in reserve for the encore. It seemed to surprise Meat Loaf too! Mind you, the inflatable bat covering the stage captured my imagination - shades of "Eddy the Ed" for those old enough to remember. After that, the three song set from an album that I can't even be arsed googling was probably a mistake judging by the amount of traffic tooing and froing to the bar at that point - even the die-hard fans seemed to be heading for over-priced analgesia! It certainly killed whatever interest I had left in the whole thing. Meat Loaf aficionados (probably all those stuck in the 80s, poodle permed bimbos who posted their undying love for Meat on Facebook this morning) would know what the album was - apparently something he's been touting round for years as a screenplay but no-one has yet been daft enough to take it up. We live in hope that Hollywood won't ever stoop that low.
Personally, I was up for calling it a night after about 6 songs but the need to stick around to see whether my investment would pay off was overwhelming. And, if I'm honest, it was worth it.
I have no idea what the song was anymore, but the highlight of the whole evening was the appearance of the Tellytubbies, Alice, the Mad Hatter and various other characters who had no relevance whatsoever to whether 2 out of 3 was bad or not. It also awakened my interest in the stage, and it was then that I noticed the inflatable fat lass in a pink bikini on the left of the stage (looking alarmingly like a nightmare inflatable blow up doll - they seemed unreachably exotic when I was 15 but somewhat grotesque now). The fact that the inflatable hands that presumably were supposed to salaciously represent an unseen male, were only half inflated only added to the sordid enjoyment of it.
Things were looking up and the concert was clearly drawing to a close when the opening chords of "Paradise" rang out. The first few bars actually suggested that this would be the highlight of the show (how hard can it be to eclipse so many low-lights?). The backing singer was back on, and she was good. Meat had foregone the stool he sat on for "2 out off 3" and the tearful eulogy to the people of Auckland, and we were ready to kick some ass.
Now, for those of you not old enough to remember, let me tell you about "Paradise by the Dashboard Light". I'll set the scene - It's about two kids who drive out to the middle of nowhere, to have a bit off fun. It's in the days before dogging so Stan Collymore doesn't feature anywhere in the lyrics, but the kids park up by the lake in the dark and the young fella clearly has his sights set on a bit of action. He's doing quite well, the music builds and he has managed to get a bit of the young lady's kit off. As the tempo rises you know he has certainly gone beyond "top deck" and, like David Bellamy, is looking to start exploring the damp undergrowth. At that point, the nerves creep in and the respectable young lady will only crank it up a notch if Meat promises undying love and marriage. What follows is classic teenage boy trying to get his way and teenage girl doing everything to resist. In 1977 the emotion of the song was such that you could get blue balls just imagining Meat's blue balls.
Not last night - at the point where he started rambling on, protesting about taking her out for salad and17 varieties of soup, it started to sound more like a bloody Heinz advert than a damp and sweaty encounter in a Ford Mustang by a moonlit lake, and any imagery of teenage lust was lost forever...as was my remaining interest in hearing what he had left for the encore.
Been there, got the t-shirt!