21 Jan Meat loaf performed the best/worst concert i’ve ever seen
So now I’m praying for the end of time
To hurry up and arrive…
Meat Loaf is responsible for both the most inspiring and the most depressing rock concert I’ve ever attended.
To back up for just a second, one of my earliest cultural memories was of Mrs. Jacobson, my choir teacher in 7th grade (and a woman responsible for pulling me out of some very bad head space but…hey…7th grade) saying she had seen Meat Loaf perform live and that it was legendary. He’d sung with such power and such ferocity that he’d passed out, someone had rushed back on stage with an oxygen tank, he had breathed deeply from a mask, and then returned from the ground to rock even harder than before. This was the sort of thing that cements a legend in the mind of a young person. It was a description I never forgot.
Fast forward 30 or so years and Meat Loaf will be performing 6 blocks or so from my home. Of course, in the interim he’d had dizzying highs (Bat Out of Hell 2 and, I’d argue, his performance in the Patrick Swayze trucker flick Black Dog) and low, low, lows (since this is an obituary, no need to go into his history with racially insensitive comments). I had $25 and the ability to travel 6 blocks. I was not going to miss this legendary performer.
The concert starts and it’s immediately apparent something is very wrong. The mix is all off. Mr. Loaf’s mic is up so high he’s almost unintelligible but, as the concert developed and I got used to the high volume, it became apparent why.
…cause if I gotta spend another minute with you
I don’t think that I can really survive
The mix was off because Meat Loaf had no sense of pitch. He still had range, he still had power but he couldn’t tell what note he was signing. I had heard, but not internalized, that he had suffered some sort of catastrophic health problem a while back that had left him, musically, in a bad place. It’s one thing to read about that in an online article and being confronted with the reality of it, turned up as loud as it could go.
Think, for a second, about what that meant. Meat Loaf, for all his faults, is a hell of a singer. He knows what it means to lose your sense of pitch. He had to know he sounded like a blender on full blast, that his contribution to the live music being performed before thousands was to ruin it in the most obvious way possible. He had to know he sucked.
But he went out anyway and pretended he didn’t. What balls!
I’ll never break my promise or forget my vow
But God only knows what I can do right now…
A performer always has a bit of a don’t ask, don’t tell policy’s with the audience. We know voices are sweetened, doubled, music we hear and love is produced down to the millisecond. We know they don’t sound like that in real life, most of the time. Meat Loaf took that agreement, wadded it up and stuck it between his butt cheeks and wiggled it at the audience and…they were OK with it. Yes, there was talk of him “sounding terrible” but people still sung along. People still danced. It was still a functional concert, based solely on one man’s…what? Stage presence? Charisma? The more I thought about it, the more I think it’s something darker.
I think, if I was fired from my job or told I could never write another book I could find something else to do. There are a lot of potential passions out there. All I can figure is that Meat Loaf needed to perform, needed music, needed the crowd and the money they brought in at such a high level that he was willing to humiliate himself, night after night, by singing when HE COULD NOT SING! He had nothing else, nothing that filled that hole inside him, nothing else that made him happy. Which is tragic. But damn, what a memorable show.
I’m praying for the end of time
It’s all that I can do.
Praying for the end of time
So I can end my time with you.
I want to hope Meat Loaf had enough respect for himself that he justified that concert by saying “if the fans still want me, I’ll still go out there”. But I fear his life was empty without music and performing. Which is fine, lots of things are sad, including Meat Loaf’s strangely pro-sexual assault tirade before he performed “Paradise By The Dashboard Lights” (don’t ask). Still, you hate to see someone so powerful and legendary lose the thing that made them powerful and legendary, even if you’re dancing while they do it.