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MEAT LOAF
Live With the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Meat Loaf and the Neverland Express featuring Patti Russo
Director:  Michael Simon
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1
Video:  Widescreen 1.78:1
Studio:  Sanctuary
Features:  See Review
Length:  135 Minutes
Release Date:  October 5, 2004

“If I gotta be damned, you know I wanna be damned,

Dancing through the night with you!”

Concert ***1/2

Meat Loaf is a hero to me, if for no other reason than he proves a big guy can rock the roof off.  When he takes the stage, he has an audience in the palm of his hand.  And once he does, he knows how to take care of them.

With Meat Loaf Live with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, he joins the trend he arguably should have started, which is taking a catalog of indelible rock and roll songs and plowing through them live with an orchestra blasting away behind them.  Jim Steinman’s bombastic tunes are perfectly suited for the full arrangements, and the extra sound helps Meat deliver the kind of sweaty, loud, passionate rock he’s known for.

At over two hours, he gives the fans in the auditorium and at home their money’s worth, storming through hit after hit with an over-the-top energy and gusto.  All the favorites are here from both Bat Out of Hell albums, including “All Revved Up With No Place to Go”, “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad”, “Out of the Frying Pan”, “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth”, “Life is a Lemon” and more.  Meat gleefully refers to his band The Neverland Express as the greatest rock and roll band in the world, and it’s hard to argue with him when you see the fire they play with on stage.

Some of the major highlights are a stunning version of “I’d Do Anything For Love” (the end duet he sings with his incredible singer Patti Russo is breathtaking), the rousing showstopper “Paradise By the Dashboard Light” (more on stage hijinks with Patti), and the gospel-tinged “Testify” with a new grooving outro. 

But perhaps the show’s most emotional moment is when Meat confesses he hadn’t performed the upcoming song live in over 25 years, and he was nervous about it…then he tears into a gut-wrenching rendition of “For Crying Out Loud” that will give you goose bumps.

This is a helluva show, and it’s great to see Meat still packing them in and delivering a fully produced and conceived live show with lights, dancers, pyrotechnics and more.  But for all the spectacle, it’s Meat himself that commands the attention.  He’s a singer who milks every note as though it were the most important one ever sung in the history of music, and feels every song as though it were being born right in front of your eyes instead of being the millionth time he’s performed it.  He isn’t afraid to engage his audience, or to play with his arrangements midstream.  The unabashed passion he injects into the music is enough to make you laugh sometimes and cry others…and often both at the same time.  It’s enough to make me forgive him for his New York Yankees guitar.  ;-)

The orchestra is kind of a trip in and of themselves…they play great, but whenever the camera is on them, they frequently look dour, as though they never thought their years at the conservatory would land them a gig backing rock’s most rotund icon! 

Still, one can’t help but find it’s a musical match made in heaven.  Meat and the MSO make beautiful music together, and as a long time fan, I’m glad this moment was captured for all time on DVD.

Video ***1/2

Though shot on video, this DVD shows very little of the limitations usually associated with the format.  This is a bright, colorful, well-lit show with lots of extreme contrasts, and for the most part, the widescreen transfer captures it all beautifully.  A few darker scenes lose definition because videotape doesn’t pick up the lower lit settings as well, but that’s only a minor complaint.

Audio ****

This soundtrack rocks the house…if you have DTS, opt for it and you’ll get a powerful, almost overwhelming listening experience where every note rings clear and succinctly and the extra oomph brought by the orchestra is fuller and more rounder.  Dynamic range is extremely formidable throughout, and the subwoofer delivers a constant breastbone shaking bottom end.  This is a disc that really captures the home viewing essence of a live concert experience.

Features ***

Sanctuary has issued this title as a two disc set with a generous helping of extras, starting with a commentary by Meat himself.  I never would have figured a commentary on a concert video would be an attraction considering people buy these for the music, but Meat delivers the goods with a funny, informative and self-depreciating track filled with anecdotes and stories and humorous asides.  I enjoyed it immensely.

The second disc has everything else, starting with a short featurette that seems made for a chuckle and not much else.  Meat Loaf interviews Meat Loaf for a Q&A, and there’s a look at the band’s pre-show ritual.  Rounding out is a photo gallery.

Summary:

Meat Loaf Live with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra is a tremendous home video concert experience, filled with fantastic music, a great live show, and a digital audio presentation that will rock you back in your seat.  If you’re a Meat Loaf fan, pick up this DVD.  If you’re not, pick it up anyway and become a Meat Loaf fan.

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