I can remember the exact moment I fell in love with Meat Loaf. It was around the time he released “It’s all coming back to me now” as a single; I was off school for the day and lying on my Grandma’s settee feeling very sorry for myself. She had This Morning on in the background on the TV and Meat Loaf was on as a guest promoting his new single. As I watched his interview his endearing charm and genuine personality shone through and I was captivated by his energy and passion. This was 2006 so I would have been around 12 years old. At the end of the interview he performed the song and I was hooked. As soon as I got home I searched Meat Loaf on YouTube and realised this was not the first time I’d heard one of his songs. Bat out of Hell, Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad, You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth, these were all songs I had grown up listening to with my Mum, I just didn’t know who I was listening to.
The first time I saw a Meat Loaf concert advertised was in 2010 in the back of a Kerrang! magazine. Unfortunately the date was slap bang in the middle of my mock GCSE exams and I wasn’t allowed to go. Cue lots of sulking and door slamming. The next time he came to the UK would also be the last time and I would be there no matter what. The news came through in December 2013 – Meat Loaf would come to Manchester on the 17th of April 2013. And I would be there, no matter what. As soon as the email came through I booked two tickets – on the floor of the MEN Arena, block H. Not bad. Until I saw the VIP Meet and Greet package. For a certain amount of money you could access the merchandise stands before anyone else, you would receive a goodie bag that included a commemorative ticket, poster and signed “Hell in a Handbasket” CD and be guaranteed a seat in the first two rows of the front and centre seating block. Oh, and you’d get to meet the man himself and have a professional picture taken with him. As you can probably guess, I bullied my Mum into buying me the VIP package for Christmas. After running around the house for about half an hour screaming about how I was going to meet Meat Loaf, I realised I had to wait four months. I am not a patient person.
After a lengthy countdown, it was finally the night before the concert. I was on facebook scrolling down my newsfeed when I saw a message from the official Meat Loaf facebook page – the concert had been cancelled due to an illness that had spread throughout the band. I burst into tears and sobbed so loudly my Mum thought somebody had died. The new date of the concert was the 25th of May, tagged on to the end of the tour. I was absolutely distraught and refused to get excited about the concert until we got to the MEN Arena.
The 25th finally rolled around and I put on my Bat out of Hell t-shirt (bought years ago, not just for the concert) and straightened my newly-dyed bright red hair. I was silent for the entire journey to the arena and didn’t even speak when we were handed our VIP lanyards and wristbands. The reason? I was absolutely terrified. This is the man whose music contributed to the person I am today – what if he wasn’t a nice person? So many thoughts were flying through my head. He could ignore me completely, pose for the photo then leave, throw a diva strop and not show up, anything. I’d seen hundreds of documentaries about him but they can be edited to show him in the best light. In short, I was absolutely shitting myself. As promised we were allowed access to the shops before the general public – I bought a programme and a pair of hotpants with “I would do anything for love” on the front and “but I won’t do that!” on the back. Come on – who could resist?! We were then escorted deep into the bowels of the MEN (and right under McDonalds from the smell of it.)
When we reached the designated “meet and greet” area, we were seated in a semi-circle, all facing an empty chair. In a matter of minutes, Meat Loaf would occupy that chair. It’s a miracle I didn’t throw up. Nervous chatter filled the air as we waited for him to emerge. Then, somebody spotted him through a window in a door. I was shaking so much I had to sit on my hands and I was either going to burst into tears or throw up. Probably both. I took a deep breath and looked up – Oh. My. God. There he was. Even though he’s in his late 60s and was looking a little unsteady and frail he exuded power and authority and I actually nearly cried. I was completely overwhelmed. He sat down on the chair and said “Hi, how are you all?” Until he spoke I honestly didn’t believe that this was all happening, but he sounded exactly like he did in all of his interviews and all of his songs. I just sat staring, in complete awe of this amazing man who had done so much and helped me so much, without even knowing it. It was an incredible moment and a truly humbling experience.
I don’t know what I was expecting at the meet and greet but I’m pretty sure he went above and beyond. He went round every person in the group asking them their name, occupation and having a bit of a chat with them. Luckily I was more than halfway round so by the time he got to me I could just about string a sentence together. When he turned to me he said “Hello. Wow that’s some red hair. I mean even I can tell its red and I’m colour-blind.” Erm, thank you?! He assured me it was a compliment and he then insisted on calling me “Red.” I’ll take it! He then told me a story about when he was in Santa Fe. Apparently in Santa Fe the traffic lights are the opposite way round, so it goes green at the top, yellow in the middle and red at the bottom instead of red, yellow green like traditional traffic lights. This, combined with the fact that Meat Loaf is completely colour blind, led to him running 13 red lights in a row and almost being arrested for dangerous driving. Luckily it was 3am so the streets were empty and the police officer let him off when he realised it was a genuine mistake. Brilliant! After he’d had a chat with everyone and told us a couple of stories about his previous tours it was time for the pictures. It was literally run in, smile and run back out because we were running out of time. I have always said that being small is a major benefit at stage doors and this was no different – because I was so small I could easily turn sideways and lean into him and he put his arm around me. I damn near collapsed! He’s as broad as he looks on television but not as tall, but he definitely still has a very powerful presence. It would be so interesting to see him perform on stage after meeting him and chatting to him.
After an hour or so in the VIP bar (VERY nice) we were escorted to our seats. Wow. I mean, wow. I didn’t even need to zoom in for pictures of the stage. I actually had to lean back to fit the whole stage in one shot. For the first half of the show he would be performing some of his more recent tracks and as soon as he walked on stage I was struck again by how he commanded the room without breathing a note. All eyes were on him as we waited with baited breath. As he launched into “Life is a Lemon and I Want My Money Back” (don’t ask) I was gobsmacked. The frail old man I had seen in the meet and greet room was gone, replaced by, there’s no other way of describing it, a rock God. He attacked every song and the effort and passion he put in was just unbelievable. He had to take a break after each song and there were extended musical intervals in places but he put his all into absolutely every word and he had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand. The look of sheer determination on his face totally blew me away – he would hobble across the stage and then belt out and hold a note for 10, 15, 20 seconds at a time.
The show was split into two acts and as he went off the stage after the first half I couldn’t stop grinning. When he came back on, he would perform the entire Bat out of Hell album, in order, from start to finish. There were no crappy 4 minute radio edits, and he burst back onto the stage belting the original 12 minute version of “Bat out of Hell”, wearing his famous white shirt with the frilled front, and clutching his red hankie. Inbetween each song was an clip from a documentary that Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman had done about the Bat out of Hell album, explaining the composition, meaning and execution of each song. Before “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth” the entire crowd chanted the infamous “On a hot summer night…” dialogue, word for word. “Heaven Can Wait” made me cry like a baby. Even after the hundreds perhaps even thousands of times Meat Loaf has performed that song his voice still shook with emotion and his eyes still glistened with tears. I danced through “All Revved Up With No Place to Go” and “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” and then it was time for “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” – my favourite song of the album. There was a very bizarre inflatable woman in a bikini at the back of the stage, with two arms protruding from behind her and hovering over her breasts. Through the play-by-play section of the song Meat Loaf and his guest singer Patti Russo (that is one hell of a guest singer) played their roles absolutely perfectly. How Meat Loaf transformed from a 60-something year old singer to an awkward teenager for that segment I will never know but it was pure brilliance. My absolute favourite part, “STOP RIGHT THERE!” was belted out perfectly by Patti and the subsequent argument was just amazing, with Meat Loaf somehow pulling off the role of stroppy teenager perfectly. Meat Loaf himself cries at the song “For Crying Out Loud” so the rest of the crowd had no chance whatsoever – the whole arena was a mess. As if the night wasn’t perfect enough he then performed Real Dead Ringer For Love and finished off the show with “Anything For Love” complete with the Beauty and the Beast style music video on a big screen in the background.
After the concert I couldn’t hear anything except a faint ringing sound, my hip was sore, my knee was sore, my head was sore, my throat was sore, my feet were sore… and I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.