Meat Loaf at Constitution Hall: A Little Dry

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

For better or worse, Meat Loaf showed up at Constitution Hall on Monday. He repeatedly thanked the audience for coming back after postponing the gig two weeks ago due to illness. Whatever ailed him then doesn't appear cured: His voice was beyond bad -- he swigged straight olive oil between songs to keep from going totally hoarse -- and under the bright spotlights his skin tone was the dull green shade seen on zombies in bad horror movies.

The 59-year-old singer (born Marvin Lee Aday) had a theatrical background when he arrived on the pop scene in the late 1970s with the first "Bat Out of Hell," a multimillion-selling collection of tunes about driving and loving and wrecking in both endeavors, put to grandiose rock arrangements. The stage training served him well as he acted out "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" from that record with new backup singer Aspen Miller, a pixieish soprano decked out in a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader outfit. Despite huge disparities in age, size and physical attractiveness, the two came off as a believable odd couple. And Meat Loaf almost made up for his vocal shortcomings with hilarious body language.

The pair also teamed up for "I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)," another bombastic serving from another multimillion-seller, 1993's "Bat Out of Hell II." The lyrics don't explain exactly what it is that Loaf won't do for love, and he's never cleared up this mystery, but Vegas oddsmakers might lean toward something involving a sit-up or pushing a plate away. Fans gave him periodic standing ovations for the effort, if not the execution.

Meat Loaf is now touring behind the long-threatened "Bat Out of Hell III," a disc that was released only last year after he resolved a legal squabble with former partner Jim Steinman. Fans seemed unfamiliar with the new material, but took to the most upbeat offering from what the performer has hinted will be the last "Bat" record: "If It Ain't Broke, Break It." At least on this night, things sure sounded broke already.

-- Dave McKenna

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