Jim Steinman, Bill Hard, Meat Loaf, David Fleischman

The Hudson Theater, September 17, 1993.

Meat Loaf, one of rock n roll's biggest stars (literally and figuratively), brought his Back Into Hell tour into Broadway's Hudson Theater amidst all the pomp and circumstance that usually comes with a show on The Great White Way. Everyone knows the story of Meat Loaf : Along with partner / keyboardist / chief songwriter Jim Steinman, they created Bat Out Of Hell, one of the most successful selling albums of all time. Legal hassles, and a variety of physical and mental problems (which included Meat Loaf losing his voice), prevented the duo from releasing a sequel (though you could make a case for 1981's Dead Ringer LP). Bat Out Of Hell II: Back Into Hell finally saw the light of day earlier this month, and has all of the things that made Bat I brilliant - over the top production, lengthy titles, and extended music suites.

Upon entering the lavish theater, you were greeted by two scantily clad women who gave you customized Meat Loaf earplugs - an early indicator that things were going to get pretty loud. Smoke machines provide atmosphere as you walked through the lobby. As you were taking your seat, a string quartet played selections from Bat I. A very clever, classy move.

Shortly after 8:30, lead guitarist Pat Thrall (who strongly resembled Tommy Shaw) chased the string quartet with a barrage of six string acrobatics. Dressed in black and lace, Meat Loaf led his six piece band into the majestic “I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)”, the first single off of Bat II, and destined to be the next Meat Loaf standard. Next came “You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth”,complete with the memorable dialogue between Meat and Ellen Foley and it was sing-along time. The first act (?!) was divided between both Bats: “All Revved Up With No Place To Go” received a new guitar-based arrangement “Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad” sounded just as ironic and gorgeous as ever; “Rock And Roll Dreams Come Through” is a solid mid-tempo rocker, and "Everything Louder Than Everything Else" is just that -loud- complete with confetti, strobe lights and explosions.

Gina Iorillo, Meat Loaf, Bill Hard

After a brief intermission, Jim Steinman, decked out in leather and studs, did a hilarious reading of “Wasted Youth” to kick off the second act. After the hard driving and sardonic “Life Is A Lemon (And I Want My Money Back)”, Meat Loaf was joined by Steinman (who played a hot rod colored piano) for a version of “Heaven Can Wait” that had the audience completely spellbound. “Objects In The Rear View Mirror (May Appear Closer Than They Are)” with its lengthy title and its numerous time changes, is another number off Bat II that will undoubtedly remain in the Meat Loaf set list. Things ended with the inevitable: Thunderous versions of “Bat Out Of Hell”, and everyone's favorite ode to teenage lust, “Paradise By The Dashboard Light”. For “Paradise”, Meat Loaf and vocalist Patricia Russo re-created all of the joys and horrors that go into “The Big Dance”. All in all, it was a brilliant blending of rock n roll and theater.

Meat Loaf, thinner and in fine voice, was clearly the evening's high point. Despite the fact he is an outstanding singer, Meat Loaf was more like an actor as he used sweeping hand gestures and dramatic pauses to his advantage. When talking to the crowd, he deflected any wise cracks like a seasoned comic. His band, The Neverland Express, had a tall order, but rose to the occasion (though I would suggest to several members to drop the spandex - Its so 80s!). The rhythm section of Steve Buslowe (bass) and John Miceli (drums), held everything together, while Kasim Sulton did double duty on the keyboards and guitar. Pianist Mark Alexander and lead guitarist Pat Thrall had difficult tasks re-creating the parts made famous by Todd Rundgren, Roy Bittan, and Jim Steinman, but they more than met the challenge. Though she was not as memorable as Karla DeVito or Ellen Foley, singer Patricia Russo was credible as Meat Loaf's on-stage foil.

If you are lucky enough to have tickets on this theater tour, check out The Back Into Hell Tour. This package combining the power of rock n roll with theater is the stuff that Pete Townshend can only dream about - and that's no knock on his theatrical efforts, mind you. If you don't have tix, fear not, Meat Loaf's coming back to larger venues later this year. So if you're all revved up and have no place to go, check out Meat Loaf.

Earl Douglas is the producer of “Mr Marty On The Loose” with Marty Martinez

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Source: The Hard Report, (PDF)