Meat Loaf: Last at Bat Tour, O2 Arena, London

 

Meat Loaf staggers, hunched and panting, around the stage like a wounded hog. It's disquieting and to start with the burly singer, perspiring profusely, is more like a hedgehog out of hell for his farewell tour. However, with the considerable assistance of his brassy “backing” singer Patti Russo, a willing audience - there are lifetime Loafers here, with T-shirts to prove it - and some sensational, Jim Steinman created soft-rock ballads the 65-year-old showman pulls through.

Six years ago Meat Loaf appeared to be a spent musical force, retreating off stage in Newcastle after an hour's performance with “Ladies and gentlemen, I love you, thank you for coming, but I can no longer continue.” In his turbulent career the Texan has broken his legs, had a knee replaced, undergone heart surgery and has been diagnosed with a cyst on his vocal cords. No wonder his voice cracks with emotion (“It became your album, not mine”) before “For Crying Out Loud” towards the end. It's emotional and as Meat Loaf's damaged character, Bob, in Fight Club would have it: “Go ahead, Cornelius, you can cry.”

Meat Loaf, born Marvin Lee Aday, has never shied away from the big emotions. His bestselling album, Bat Out of Hell (43 million sales and counting), which is played in its entirety in the second half of this show, is all about love, lust and loss. The record, with its seven epic, rock-opera songs, would make the perfect musical, and Meat Loaf, armed with his trademark red hanky, appears to have saved his exhausted pipes for these tracks. The audience help out on “Bat Out of Hell”, Russo does a lot of the heavy lifting on the stupendous “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night)” and the Meat pulls it together for the suitably histrionic “Two Out of Three Ain't Bad”. For “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” we're not only “treated” to Meat Loaf groping Russo but to a huge and lewd inflatable doll.

It all makes up for a saggy first half that was mainly redeemed by the wildly OTT “Objects in the Rear Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are” and Russo single-handedly saving the exquisitely sleazy “Dead Ringer for Love”.

Meat Loaf, with his silver medallion swishing, attacks his final great song/bout, “I Would Do Anything for Love”, like a punch drunk but determined pugilist. The Loaf abides and, as Elton John would have it, he's still standing, well, hunching.

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