It's kind of a wonder that Meat Loaf is still performing at all. When your stage name is a direct reference to your morbid obesity, career longevity is hardly a given. But there he was at Humphreys on Wednesday, the legendary performer whose 1977 album, Bat Out of Hell, is still the fifth best-selling album of all time, and, though still a far cry from skinny, the guy actually looked pretty fit.
His voice, on the other hand, showed more signs of aging. The set began strongly, thanks to a high-powered rendition of "Hot Patootie -- Bless My Soul," from Rocky Horror Picture Show. Meat Loaf also nailed "Bat Out of Hell," a sprawling, 10-minute song that pushed his stamina to its limit. Meat Loaf complained that the song isn't an easy one to perform when you're 62 -- or sexty-two, as he kept insisting -- and the exertion would take its toll on his voice for the remainder of the set.
Meat Loaf alternated between his classic Bat Out of Hell I and II material, and songs from his new album, the unfortunately titled Hang Cool Teddy Bear. The Hang Cool material, which married wanna-be Bat epicness with bloated metal riffs, was met with polite applause, but the audience went certifiably nuts every time he played an actual Bat song. The crowd tried to sing along to the classics, but Meat Loaf's delivery was frequently haggard and a beat or two late, with each syllable stretched out to an uncomfortable degree. In an attempt to let Loaf keep up, his band played the songs much slower than their recorded versions, but the molasses-evoking tempos all but killed the energy.
The protracted delivery was bad enough, but his stage banter was even worse. The performance of "Paradise By the Dashboard Light" should have been the evening's most thrilling moment, but Meat Loaf ground the song to a halt midway to engage in some painful comedic exchanges with longtime backup vocalist Patricia Russo. The tedious, improvised sketch consisted of awkward squabbling between Loaf and Russo, multiple references to Forrest Gump and -- at its lowest point -- a giant, fake penis that Loaf brought onstage and begged Russo to touch, as the crowd cheered him on.
The set did have its well-executed moments, such as the revamped "Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through" and the still-effective "I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)," but other songs didn't fare as well. Drawn-out versions of "You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night)" and "Two Out of Three Aint' Bad" were encumbered by Meat Loaf's vocal floundering and his backing band's unnecessary, ham-fisted embellishments. All in all, the set was a mixed bag, but what more do you expect from a 62 year old arena rock musician? I'm sorry, I meant sexty-two.