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Meat Loaf is renowned throughout the world, but over the last few years his popularity has diminished. During my teenage years it was trendy to follow the big guy; at the time he had just released his second album, Bat Out Of Hell 2, and he was playing to sell-out audiences everywhere. However, now with the way the music industry is, he no longer has the respect of youngsters, and that is why his audiences consist of mostly middle-aged rockers. Meat Loaf’s songs are distinctive and have an epic theme to them. I was lucky enough to see Meat Loaf live around ten years ago and I can still remember the evening vividly. Partly because it was the first concert I went to with my wife, but also because each song was played out as if it was a scene from a movie. His stage sets were extravagant and there was definitely no expense spared.

Meat Loaf: Live With The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
Therefore it came as no surprise to me when I heard that Meat Loaf was attempting to play a live concert with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Apparently Meat Loaf had been toying with the idea of playing with an orchestra since 1976, but due to a lack of budget and scheduling problems the opportunity never arose. Nearly twenty years on, not only has he performed several concerts with the orchestra, but he has also released a DVD of the shows. Meat Loaf: Live with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra was filmed over two nights (February 20th and 22nd) in Melbourne. The concert featured the following songs:

Track List:
Life Is a Lemon (And I Want My Money Back)
Mercury Blues
Dead Ringer For Love
Testify
All Revved Up With No Place To Go
You Took The Words Right Out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night)
Couldn't Have Said It Better
Two Out of Three Ain't Bad
Out of the Frying Pan (And Into the Fire)
For Crying Out Loud
Paradise by the Dashboard Light
I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)
Bat Out of Hell

This concert runs for over two hours and considering the number of songs covered its easy to see why many people have stated that Meat Loaf’s songs have an operatic feel. For someone of Meat Loaf’s build, the amount of energy he puts into his concerts really is amazing. I have read many interviews with him and he really does give his all. He likes to leave audiences feeling that they have seen a spectacular performance, and that’s exactly what he gives during these Melbourne shows. Most of his hits are included in the set, from the thunderous opening with Life Is a Lemon through to the spectacular finale with Bat Out Of Hell, this is definitely one of the most extravagant shows you will see live. The only disappointment is the omission of Objects In the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are. In my opinion this is one of his best ballads and is definitely an essential part of his back catalogue.

Meat Loaf: Live With The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
So I guess the burning question is, was the decision to include the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra a success? To be honest there are only a few songs where I really noticed the inclusion of the orchestra. For example, during the opening track (Life Is a Lemon) you wouldn’t have noticed the orchestra, but there are some songs (You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth and Bat Out Of Hell) where the orchestra definitely adds another dimension. Overall, I would say that it was a bold decision and it just about paid off. Seeing Meat Loaf in concert is something most rock fans should try and experience at least once, so if you don’t have the chance to see him live this DVD is a good substitute.  

Video
This Meat Loaf concert is presented in widescreen 1.85:1, which is also anamorphically enhanced. Reviews of this DVD had just started to surface when I received this disc and having read them I was expecting a first class transfer. For the most part the transfer is impressive, but there are a worrying number of scenes where compression artefacts are obvious. In particular, when the camera pans over to a long distance shot of the crowd, there is a distracting amount of artefacts. Close up, the detail level is fine but not spectacular. However, the main problems seem to be distance shots, as even when the camera moves to distance shots of Meat Loaf, the detail level is not what it should be. Thankfully grain levels are not a problem though; there are some signs of grain but nothing worth shouting about!

The main area where this transfer excels is with the colours. If you have ever been to a Meat Loaf concert you will be familiar with the idea that his shows are colourful and this transfer picks up everything. Skin tones are accurate and the extensive use of lighting shows up well. Black levels are solid and stand up to the test. Considering this is a 2 disc release I had high expectations for this transfer. This is a reasonable transfer but certainly not the spectacle it should have been.

Audio
Meat Loaf concerts are meant to be loud and spectacular, so luckily the creators of this DVD have treated fans to a couple of smashing soundtracks. There are three tracks included with this release, a 2.0 effort, Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1. If there was ever an incentive to purchase a home cinema system this disc will persuade you. The difference between the 2.0 track and the other two is amazing! If you like bland, quiet and restrained music then by all means listen to the 2.0 track, however if you are a real Meat Loaf fan or even a fan of loud music then you must witness the Dolby Digital and DTS tracks.

Meat Loaf: Live With The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
I’m a big fan of concert DVDs and over the last couple of years I have been lucky enough to watch quite a few. Therefore I consider myself quite experienced at judging what makes a good concert DVD. It is safe to say that the audio aspect of this disc definitely constitutes a good concert DVD, and is probably as good as you will hear this year. Like most releases the DTS track has the slight edge and always takes priority. The rears are used to great effect throughout; whether it’s the crowd noises or simply the various orchestral instruments, the rears are constantly in use and create an all-rounded experience. A perfect example of this is during the encore to “You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth” where the fans are taunted to sing louder by Meat Loaf. The defining moment of this disc is the finale with Bat Out Of Hell, which is already my most played track on this disc. The front speakers are also clear throughout and Meat Loaf’s striking voice is always audible.

Extras
Most of the extras for this release can be found on the second disc, but on the first disc you will find a Commentary with Meat Loaf. The idea of commentating on a concert is not an idea I considered appealing before reviewing this disc, however when you have someone with the charisma of Meat Loaf talking it is easy to see why one is included with this release. This commentary is extremely funny but at the same time very descriptive. At times Meat Loaf is very critical of his performance which is interesting to listen to. Meat Loaf also gives detailed accounts of each of the songs that are performed, so by the end of the concert you should be able to recite his musical career! Interesting details that I took from this commentary include the facts that Meat Loaf pretends to be different characters for each of his songs and also how he carries a couple of teddy bears around with him everywhere! This is a quality commentary and one of the best I have heard in a long time.

Next up is the creatively named extra, Featurette. There is a definite theme to the extras with this release; they all try to be fun and not too serious. This featurette is definitely a tongue in cheek production. It starts off with the director of the DVD (Michael Simon) introducing himself, and he promises that various members of the band will contribute to the featurette. However, it is soon apparent that the members of the band won’t help out and try to ignore the people filming. Obviously this is all play-acting but it is amusing to watch. The rest of the featurette follows in the same vein and is worth watching. This extra lasts for around sixteen minutes.

Meat Loaf: Live With The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
If you are a fan of Q&A then you will probably find the next extra worthwhile. It is called Q and A with Meat Loaf. I have to admit to feeling slightly disappointed with this extra. It features ten questions in total. The questions asked are sensible and encourage lengthy replies, but for the majority of them we are only given one sentence replies. This is definitely the most disappointing extra on this disc.

The next extra is called Pre-Show Ritual and runs for just over a minute. This is a short clip which shows the ritual the band go through before going on stage. This extra is ok, but will only really appeal to Meat Loaf fanatics. The final extra on this disc is a Photo Gallery. This consists of a three minute music montage where images from the show are displayed on the screen. Once again another extra for the real enthusiasts!

The only other thing left for me to comment on is the subtitles for the extras. Subtitles are provided in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish.

Meat Loaf: Live With The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
Overall
Energetic, spectacular and loud are just a few adjectives which you could use to describe Meat Loaf in concert. If any of those descriptions surprise you then I implore you to give this DVD a go. It may not be trendy to admit to liking Meat Loaf these days, but there is no doubt that when it comes to live performances, Meat Loaf puts many people half his age to shame. Meat Loaf is one of the greatest Rock performers and this DVD will show you exactly what you have been missing if you have never seen him live. As for the DVD, well Warner Home Music have delivered an impressive package; the transfer maybe the least satisfying aspect, but the soundtracks and extras are perfectly respectable. If you buy one concert DVD this year then you could do a lot worse then picking Meat Loaf: Live with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.  

Note: This is a region 0 DVD, so should play on all DVD players.


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