Judge Brett Cullum is cold and lonely in the deep dark night, and is looking for paradise by the dashboard lights.
Like a bat out of hell I'll be gone before the morning comes.
I'm a huge Meat Loaf fan and, since the '90s with Bat Out of Hell 2: Back Into Hell, I've seen every concert tour I can get to. Growing up, the original Bat Out of Hell was playing in the background at almost every party we had in high school despite us being way too young to remember when it first came out in all its 1977 vinyl glory. Still, "Paradise by the Dashboard Lights" was the climax of many a night with the more theatrical of us getting drunk enough to sing the final verse and chorus to each other as duets. What I would not have given to be able to see Meat Loaf in his prime with his ruffled shirt, red hanky, Jim Steinman on piano, and Karla DeVito singing along for the very first Bat Out of Hell tour. Well thanks to DVD, the fans finally get that shot with Bat Out of Hell: The Original Tour. There has to be a ton of them considering Bat Out of Hell is the third most sold album of all time, only eclipsed by Michael Jackson's Thriller and AC/DC's Back in Black. It's full of songs about the ultimate fantasy of girls, motorcycles, and larger than life romantic emotions that feel like the end of the world.
The footage used comes from a tour stop in 1978 at the Stadthalle Offenbach arena in Germany. This is where a television special for the European series Rockpalast was taped, so the source material is over thirty years old. It's on video, and looks and sounds extremely raw in comparison to what could be done with current technology. The DVD transfer looks as good as it can be considering the source material is video for television at a time when high definition wasn't even a concept. It has a decidedly low tech texture, soft and grainy, but the clarity is amazing under the circumstances. The stereo sound is rough and tumble with vocals dropping in and out due to technical issues at the venue. It adds to the nostalgia in some ways to see and hear this all through the technology of the '70s even if that limits the quality of what can be produced.
There's some controversy about this release not including the entire set list of Meat Loaf's original tour. Missing are covers of "River Deep, Mountain High" and "Johnny B Goode." Originally Amazon and other online retailers listed the running time as 105 minutes long, but final product reveals only 89 minutes made it to the disc. The set list follows the exact song order on the original Bat Out of Hell album with the exception of eliminating two ballads "Heaven Can Wait" and "For Crying Out Loud" and flipping the order of one of the softer numbers. "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad" is moved to the end after "Paradise by the Dashboard Lights" as an encore, and there is a reprise of "All Revved Up With No Place To Go" to serve as the upbeat finale. There are seven songs if we include the instrumental introduction piece "Great Boleros of Fire" which has been tacked on to Bat Out of Hell CD reissues. Extras include a pretty good German interview with Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman together from 1978. Steinman seems to take the lead in the fifteen minute session, and they discuss the Bat Out of Hell album from inception to execution. They talk about the follow-up project in great detail which became the Steinman solo album Bad for Good after Meat developed vocal issues. Also included in the DVD are liner notes from Matt Friedman talking about what this album and tour meant.
Set list in Order:
Little more than a month after this performance, Meat Loaf had an onstage accident which left him with a broken leg. He played Nassau Coliseum in New York from a wheelchair and then canceled the rest of this tour. So in all honesty the DVD is probably the best way to see a show that few fans got to see even the first time around. Everything feels authentic to a '70s rock concert including sound issues now and then, cheesy red and blue lights, and real musicians playing everything live without any backing tracks to enhance the instruments or the singer. Bat Out of Hell: The Original Tour reminds me of a time when it was "long ago and far away" when it was "so much better than it is today." I would have loved to been there at the height of Meat Loaf's rise to fame, and this DVD takes you there.
Guilty of making me want to drink cheap beer and sing along to "Paradise by the Dashboard Lights," but still free to go.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment
• Vintage Interview
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