Feature: Jack Foley
IT SEEMS ridiculous, if you think about it, that it’s taken
Meat Loaf this long to record a collaboration with an orchestra.
After all, it’s difficult to think of an artist whose music
would be more ideally suited to such a treatment.
Meat Loaf’s music has all the ingredients for such a marriage
– the grandiosity, the sweeping emotions, the change in
moods, the courage to defy convention.
The singer admits as much himself.
"The songs are crying out for this, really," he states.
"They’re very long, very dramatic and melodramatic
- even operatic. So of course they’re perfectly suited to
being played with an opera."
If the live CD seems like it’s been a long time coming,
you can rest assured that it feels exactly the same way for its
In 1976, when the young Meat Loaf was recording his monumental
Bat Out Of Hell set with writer Jim Steinman and producer
Todd Rundgren, the writer and singer discussed the possibility
of recording the seven songs with an orchestra, but the idea was
shelved because of scheduling and budgeting constraints.
So, Bat Out Of Hell emerged in 1977 without any accompaniment;
its compositions have had to wait a further 27 years for this
"I’m sure when people hear it they will realise that
it’s worth the wait," predicts Meat Loaf.
The live CD was recorded with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra,
under the guidance of arranger/orchestrator/conductor Keith Levenson.
The performance was filmed over two nights at Melbourne’s
Rod Laver Arena – normally home to the Australian Open tennis
tournament - on February 20 and 22, 2004.
Ask Meat Loaf if he himself is classically trained and he’ll
tell you: "Yes – I’m classically trained in softball.
I’m very good at softball!"
Aside from a full orchestra, the CD features a boy’s choir
on Testify, a flying couch, a troupe of dancers ("I
didn’t realise they’d be so scantily clad," reveals
the singer, who got the idea from watching Justin Timberlake at
the Manchester Evening News Arena) and two hours and 25 minutes
of blood red, sweat-furrowed Meat Loaf rock 'n' roll.
"It’s strange because
when I was up there singing during these shows I couldn’t
really hear what the orchestra were playing," recalls the
charismatic front man.
"There’s so much for me to do up there, that I’m
really concentrating so hard on performing and not on what’s
"And not only that, but the ear piece that I wear means
that I couldn’t hear them anyway. So it wasn’t really
until I heard the final live mixes from the concerts that I realised
how great the songs sounded with the orchestra playing them.
"People often ask me if I get tired of playing the songs
from Bat Out Of Hell, and the answer is, 'No, I never
get tired of playing those songs'," he continues.
"That’s because they’re classic songs, and every
night feels like it’s the first time I’ve ever sung
"But I have to say that the way they sound here is just
"Songs like Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad and
For Crying Out Loud sound great. It’s all very
"I don’t know how I imagined it sounding before we
embarked on this, but I don’t think I could have envisaged
it sounding any better than it did."
With a full production and sold-out notices hanging outside for
both nights’ performances, Meat Loaf remembers the two concerts
as being nights to remember, both for himself and for the audience.
"I’m very serious about performing," he stresses.
"I get pissed off when I see someone play and they expect
me as a member of the audience to respond to what I’m seeing
just because of the fact that I’ve bought a ticket to the
show. That really pisses me off.
"I’m not like that at all. I think it’s my job
to bring the audience into the show, to involve them and to give
them something to cheer about – not just the fact that I’m
up there on stage.
"And I work very hard to make sure people go home satisfied,
that they’ve seen something special. It’s my job to
give people a good night for their money."
And did the thousands of people of people in Melbourne who saw
Meat Loaf with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra have a good night?
"Damn right, they did," concludes the singer.