Marvin Lee Aday’s death last week prompted the usual burst of nostalgic fervour, happy memories and over-the-top claims for the artist normally known as Meat Loaf.
(Oddly, much of it failed to mention the work of the histrionic, comic – intentional and otherwise – but undoubtedly manic and successful songwriter Jim Steinman, without whom ol’ Meat might well have been so much chopped liver. But anyway.)
However, not everything was glowing by the dashboard light by the last tour he made to Australia, a territory that had remained loyal for nigh on 40 years. And I don’t even mean that grand final performance.
In 2011, when it came to singing, energy and songs, two out of three were bad.
Entertainment Centre, October 12
DOUBLE BARREL-CHESTED, sweat-matted long hair flicking from side to side, eyes manic and body in motion. In his pomp as the vocal half of a lethal combination with writer Jim Steinman, Meat Loaf was the epitome of preposterous pop, of rock 'n' roll as the most ridiculous and simultaneously most passionate form of music.
Every song had multiple sections, elaborate scenarios, puns and internal jokes. Every song was sung as if being wrung from the very bones of a singer who while hardly a classic stylist had more subtle skill than the cartoon name suggested.
However, while pathos can be enjoyed in such dramatic settings, bathos cannot; while ridiculous can be celebrated in high spirits, pitiable cannot. And pitiable is where Meat Loaf is now.
I know there is an element of fish/barrel/shooting when being critical of a man in his mid 60s whose voice (power, tone and range) has left the building; whose stiff legged walk suggests ailments too deeply embedded to resolve; whose hunched-over-the-microphone-stand singing and gasps for air mean that where once you worried he would burst a blood vessel during a song’s climax now you worry he’ll just tip over.
However, can we really excuse the complete inability to hit the low or high notes in You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth (or even make the notes in new songs such as the suite from the Hang Cool Teddy Bear album)?
Do we ignore how the tune of I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That) was almost unrecognisable, and that of Standing In The Storm could barely crawl? Or that Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad and, most criminally of all, Paradise By The Dashboard Light, were train wrecks even his very competent band couldn’t rescue?
If you’re Bob Dylan you can just about get away with stuff like that, partly because your voice was never the selling point and partly because you do challenge the songs and yourself as much as you challenge us.
But despite the excitement of a disturbingly large number of wilfully deluded Meat Loaf fans in the room (it was the songs they grew up with, it was loud, it was there - that seemed enough for them) this was painful.