Tuesday, May 23, 2023

A Dead Ringer for Meatloaf

The year is 1947. Two years after the end of World War Two. The first computer bug was discovered, a moth stuck in a mechanical computer at Harvard University. The Polaroid instant camera was launched. Bell Labs invented the transistor which created every modern electronic device. The Cold War started. A UFO crashed in Roswell, New Mexico. India and Pakistan gained independence. For the first time, the sound barrier was broken by test pilot Chuck Yeager. Most importantly, Marvin Lee Aday was born in Dallas.

Aday earned a more familiar name early on in his school days, being called Meatloaf at various times by his father, his school mates and a teacher. To put Meatloaf’s longevity into even more perspective, he was 16 years old when he saw John F Kennedy in Dallas, the day that JFK was assassinated. Meatloaf’s first gig was in 1968, opening for Van Morrison. In 1973, he was in the original stage production of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. To put it simply, Meatloaf was centre stage for the cultural history of the modern world. His debut album ‘Bat out of Hell’ was written with and produced by rock legends Jim Steinman and Todd Rundgren and, to date, has sold more than 43 million copies, meaning that globally, one in every 160 people owns one. Meatloaf was more than a rock star, and for the thousand or so fans at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall, he was a way of life, even a religion.

Meatloaf’s band, The Neverland Express, have been brought together by lead guitarist Paul Crook to recreate the joy and the spectacle of a Meatloaf tour, entitled Celebrating Meatloaf. It’s the original band playing the original music yet it’s more than a tribute show. American Idol winner Caleb Johnson does his best to channel the Loaf while singers Lyssa Lynne and Kiley Faith Baxter add a raunchy sparkle to the duets and softer solo numbers. Paul Crook has brought together Randy Flowers, John Miceli, Danny Miranda and Andy Ascolese who bring the music to life with flawless performances. It’s more than a tribute band that you might see in your local pub, not only because many of the performers have been on stage with Meatloaf but because various members of the band get their time in the spotlight when it’s right for the song. Notably, Kiley Faith Baxter’s ‘All Coming Back’ wouldn’t be out of place on a Broadway stage and Randy Flowers’ ‘Rock and Roll Dreams’ was performed with smooth perfection and a total sense of ownership. This was a night when the performers weren’t paying their tributes to Meatloaf, they were taking a slice of that magic and making it their own. In essence, it was a musical eulogy.

The first half of the show featured such crowd pleasers as ‘Dead Ringer for Love’ and ‘I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)’ which firmly established the performers’ credentials, ending with a full on rock diva performance from Johnson during ‘Out of the Frying Pan (And Into The Fire)’ in which he toured the Symphony Hall, variously serenading and hugging his eager fans while others crowded round to take selfies and record the spectacle on their phones.

The second half exploded with a full play-through of ‘Bat Out of Hell’, starting with the opening title track and weaving through the operatic roller coaster of household names and jukebox classics such as ‘You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night)’, ‘Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad’ and ‘Paradise by the Dashboard Light’. The crowd demanded more, of course, and they were rewarded with a call back to one of Meatloaf’s very earliest performances from the Rocky Horror Picture Show, his show-stopping ‘Hot Patootie - Bless My Soul’.

When the morning came on January 20th 2022, like a bat out of hell, Marvin Lee Aday was gone. Meatloaf’s cause of death was never revealed, however, some sources have linked his death to COVID complications. 

Meatloaf may be gone, yet his Birmingham fans had the band and they had the music and as the big man himself would say, “Two out of three ain’t bad”.

Peter Freeth

Instagram @genius.photo.pf

Web genius.photo

Images: Peter Freeth

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