Rock and Pop: When dinosaurs walked the stage
Sunday 28 March 1999
He had already starred in productions of Hair and The Rocky Horror Show, back in the early 1970s, before Jim Steinman wrote Bat Out Of Hell for him. Steinman, more recently Andrew Lloyd Webber's lyricist, had a theatrical background, too, and Bat is really just a musical on vinyl. It's a very clever homage to the archetypes of high-school rock'n'roll, somehow linking motorbikes, cars, girls, the beach and Phil Spector-style bubblegum pop with two of Steinman's other obsessions: Peter Pan and Wagnerian opera. Meat Loaf was cast as a larger-than-life, adolescent misfit, halfway between Pavarotti and Jerry Lee Lewis. It's a role he's still playing.
His current tour promotes a new Very Best Of album, but the fact is that "The Very Best Of Meat Loaf" was released over 20 years ago and called Bat Out Of Hell. Loaf has tried for much of his career to recreate that original masterpiece - most blatantly on 1993's Bat Out Of Hell II - but it's been as futile as writing Hair II or The Rocky Horror Show II. Like Loaf's other dramatic roles, Bat Out Of Hell was a one-off. And on Tuesday, it was all too plain that most of the post-Bat songs lack the original's wit and - believe it or not - snappiness: they are inferior sequels to a blockbuster movie.
Nowadays, one of the buxom rock-chick backing vocalists is Loaf's daughter, and he has cut his hair short (to quote the title of his new single: is nothing sacred?). But he's still stuck in the part which Dr Franken-Steinman created for him long ago. Imagine if David Bowie, say, were still being Ziggy Stardust: the Bat is an albatross.
Towards the end of the concert, the band lined up on stools for an "Unplugged" segment, and had a bash at the Rolling Stones's "Honky Tonk Woman", Prince's "1999", and Loaf's own "Midnight at the Lost and Found", a Southern truckstop groove which is notable for not being Steinman-like. Loaf seemed so relieved to ease off with material that wasn't straining to be epic that it seemed a shame he hadn't done so a decade or two earlier. He could have tried country or soul or blues - or better yet, concentrated on the theatre and his sporadic film career. This may seem an odd thing to say after a two-and-a-bit hour show of 10-minute songs sung by a man who has shifted 50 million albums ... but Meat Loaf has been selling himself short.
We don't need to have any such concerns about Kiss's unfulfilled potential. Their music has never been better than primitive, and if they hadn't hit on the idea of dressing up as intergalactic superheroes, it's likely that their tinny trash rock would have long been forgotten. So you can't blame Kiss's stalwarts, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, for ditching the band's newer members a few years ago, reinstating the founding 1970s line- up, putting their costumes and make-up back on and pretending that the previous decade never happened. Not even black-and-white Hallowe'en greasepaint can fully disguise Kiss's age, though. Stanley is in enviable shape for a man half his age, and shows off that shape by performing topless. But the knock-kneed Ace Frehley sags under the weight of his Flash Gordon epaulettes, and Simmons's spiked rhinoceros armour seems designed to hide his torso's state of repair.
Are Kiss just a cabaret act now? Are they in it for the money? Well, yes on both counts - but what's new? It's a wide-open secret that Kiss's primary raison d'etre was always the acquisition of money, with the acquisition of groupies finishing a close second. The question is whether they earn their money and whether their cabaret act is any good. And on Thursday's evidence, Kiss are not just unsurpassed in the field of pyrotechnic rock panto, they're also unsurpassable. They spew blood, they breathe fire, their guitars fire rockets and belch smoke. Before "King of the Night Time World", Frehley's guitar flies to the ceiling. During "God of Thunder", Simmons takes flight, too; and then before "I Was Made For Loving You", the whole drum-kit levitates. What is there left for the hedonistic glam-metal behemoths of the future to accomplish?
As for the money, Kiss could have left out one of the flying stunts, two of the three video screens, a couple of flame-throwers, a dozen fireworks, half of the confetti bombs, and the whole of their latest gimmick - 3D glasses, no less - and they'd still have made Marilyn Manson seem like a shoegazing indie band rehearsing in a shed. But Kiss didn't stint, and special effect followed special effect, right up to the end. Over the top? Oh yes. Over the hill? Never!
Meat Loaf: Wembley Arena, 0181 900 1234, tonight, Tue & Thurs; Cardiff International Arena, 01222 224488, Fri; and touring.
TV Jungle security stepped up after murder and 'suspicious death' near to camp
Jeff Fletcher found fame in 1990s
'At times I thought he was me'film
Review: One Direction, Fourmusic
Review: The World of Ice and Firebooks
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Sarah Vine criticises lesbian mother Jack Monroe: 'If she was unsure about her sexuality, she should have taken greater precautions'
- 2 Black Friday 2014: Opening times for Asda, John Lewis, PC World, GAME and Argos
- 3 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 4 Jeremy Hunt: 'I took my children to A&E because I didn't want to wait for GP appointment'
- 5 Girl, 7, gets Tesco to remove 'stupid' sign suggesting superheroes are 'for boys'
Black Mirror Christmas special: Jon Hamm episode will see people 'blocked' in real life, not just on Facebook
Zoella: YouTube sensation Zoe Sugg's debut novel set to become overnight bestseller
True Detective series 2: Rachel McAdams cast in female lead as 'no-nonsense' detective
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs
Naked free runner captured in breathtaking photographs above London's streets
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
Revealed: How the world gets rich – from privatising British public services