Concert Review: Meat Loaf (Palace Theater, Albany, New York, October 30, 1999)

Titanic cheese-peddler Meat Loaf played the opening show of the premier VH1 Storytellers Tour Saturday night at the Palace Theater. This latest dose of marketing genius by those ever-resourceful media wonks at VH1 is designed to bring the network’s ever-popular rags-to-riches-to-rags-to-oh-yeah-I-remember-him shtick to concert stages across this great, nostalgia-lovin’ land, while also allowing loyal (or recently re-loyalized) fans to interact with their heroes and heroines in intimate, casual settings.

Or at least that’s what the press kit says — although as much as I adore the Palace, I ain’t buyin’ it as an intimate space, while the athletes’ locker room motif on the set’s backdrop didn’t say “casual” to me and I’m also not really quite sure that what happened Saturday night qualifies as “interaction” in most people’s books. Which was actually okay, since it was far more entertaining to watch Meat Loaf gleefully abusing audience members than it would have to been to watch some self-important hack (think Billy Joel) doing the same thing while also trying to curry audience adulation and touting the works being performed as serious art, all at the same time.

Because serious was the one thing Saturday night’s show was not. I mean, think about it: how seriously can you really take a big dude who calls himself Meat Loaf? And who doesn’t write the deliciously overwrought songs that he sings? And who has his own daughter doing the coochie coochie girl back-up singer thing at his concerts? And who even acts in bad Antonio Banderas movies in his spare time? You can’t — so you just roll with his ample punches, sing along with his hits, get some popcorn and a beer during his misses and watch your fellow audience members making idiots out of themselves. And that’s entertainment!

As were the songs that audience members requested — so long as they were the songs that audience members were supposed to request, as proven by the abysmal performances on two unexpected audience solicitations, “Surf’s Up” and “Crying Out Loud.” Mad props everywhere else, however, to bandleader Kasim Sulton (possibly the only man in the universe to have played with both Patti Smith and Patty Smyth, not to mention Joan Jett and Celine Dion) for keeping the instrumental side of the equation thumping along nicely, most particularly on the obviously well-rehearsed “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad,” “Bat Out of Hell” and “Dead Ringer for Love.”

And a doff of the cap to Meat Loaf as well, for being a game participant in a concept that’s likely to continue looking a lot better on paper than it does on stage. He looked great, was in fine voice throughout the show and genuinely worked to entertain — if on his own terms instead of the crowd’s. And he had fun and kept the proverbial balls in the air for three solid hours, giving folks ample opportunity to get all comfy and snoozy in their chairs, just the way they would if they were watching him at home in their La-Z-Boys.

Which will probably ultimately be proven as the best way to enjoy this show, since VH1 edits out the crappy songs before they put their concerts on television. Check your local listings accordingly.

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