I dare you to watch it.
Appropriately, the execution opened with “Hot Patootie” from the Rocky Horror Picture Show, a title more representative than commonly possible, as the following quarter hour is hide behind the couch, can I come out now Mum dreadfulness.
Meatloaf presented early, and sitting in front of the mercifully miniscule 42-inch screen, I wondered if John Farnham might’ve been lured from his retirement tent for the aural health of our nation.
“You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth” was next, with a terrifyingly extended outchorus during which Meat alternately surged ahead as if gasping for the Kool-ade, and then inexplicably dropped back a length behind his band. By its conclusion all in earshot wished they could, somehow, insert those mangled words right back into the rotund Texan’s mouth.
Tellingly, the band all had their sunglasses on, as if wishing for anonymity, and to escape this netherworld, courtesy of a Star Trek teleporter.
I must point out that I reckon Bat Out of Hell is a remarkable rock album. For many it’s the music by which they first stole a kiss, or turned the key in their own set of Holden wheels. That something like one in every dozen Australian homes owed a copy isn’t a surprise.
But, to suggest that a gap exists between that exhilarating vinyl and this afternoon at the MCG is like noting how John Howard’s bowling action doesn’t quite offer the elegance of Glen McGrath’s.
Flanking the stage were two giant Carlton Draught inflatables. How must those CUB executives have felt watching that? The music was more Death Valley-aged Budweiser than passable domestic brew.
I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) then polluted that grim, little stage. What do we make of its central theme which speculates on the very limits of human endurance? Happily, there was no Kiss-Cam that day. Scream at an Elderly Relative-Cam might’ve had the broadcast director paralysed for choice.
Our vocalist seemed to be playing a perverse game of anti-bingo in which he was determined to not sing in the correct musical key. Mr Loaf clutched a Magpie scarf as if this would help, and from this moment, a Cats’ victory was certain.
In the corner of the screen the Channel 10 logo featured proudly throughout, and anthropologists and financial analysts have since traced the network’s woes back to this thirteen-minute microcosm of existential pain.
On the Classic Albums documentary series, the composer Jim Steinman explained how, “Bat Out of Hell” was conceived as the ultimate car crash song, following in the tradition of “Leader of the Pack” and “Dead Man’s Curve.” Watching that afternoon, I wondered about life imitating art, or was it life imitating life, or art imitating an open sewer?
By the stage you could see a throng of spectators all wearing orange caps. In Buddhism, orange is connected to vitality and illumination, but I suspect if actual monks had been at the G, even they may have erupted into sudden and colossal violence.
How jealous must the crowd have been when the Harley motorcyclists, musically and thematically, so central to this song, rumbled off down the players’ race? They were paid to speed from the arena, and the sonic strife warbling about its unhappy bowl!
Towards the end Meatloaf received an oversized prop, and squinting at the screen, it appeared to be an enthusiastically circumcised penis. On it is a trigger of sorts. He handled this briefly, as it were, but then abandoned it, perhaps realising, along with the rest of the audience, both immediate and televisual, that today, there’d be no climactic finish. Indeed, if you listen carefully to veteran AFL announcer, Craig Willis, you can detect the tiniest irony, in his stentorian thanking of the Wagnerian rocker.
As Channel 10’s Stephen Quartermain then cuts to a universally welcome block of vacuous advertising, he comments that Meatloaf was, “Extraordinary.”
Aside from “Leo Barry. You star!” this is his finest moment.
Go on, I dare you to watch it.