Meat Loaf Night in the Okanagan

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Words by Cory Stumpf
Photos by Robin Arundel

It was the kind of concert that transcends generations. From elderly bikers to high school hipsters, Meat Loaf fans of every ilk filled Penticton’s South Okanagan Events Centre last night. Whether their first experiences with the legendary artist were streamed on Spotify or cranked loudly on 8-track in a beat up old Volkswagen back in the 70s, all united together under a shared passion for his music, and all went wild when the man took the stage.

If there were any concerns that after more than four decades of performing he might not still have what it takes to stir an audience with his vocal prowess, these were dispelled the instant he opened his mouth. Though his singing at moments came out somewhat gravelly, he did his best to bellow the powerful notes that he is known for, ones that many other singers could never hope to hit throughout their whole careers. And when he did pull them off his voice seemed to permeate and shake the space of every atom in the venue. The impressiveness of his ability to still wail like an angelic mammoth at the age of 68, and to come out and do so a mere week after having collapsed on stage at a separate concert in Edmonton, overshadowed any flaws that might have existed. And those flaws really were few and far between.

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Meat Loaf may have been the star of the show, but he was backed by some truly incredible talent deserving of so prestigious a gig. Impeccable guitar solos fueled rocking moments like those of Bat Out of Hell, while on the opposite end of the spectrum a softly played piano set the mood for gentler hits such as I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That). At other times the saxophonist became the focus of the show, adding a groovy feel to moments like the introduction of All Revved Up with No Place to Go. Constant throughout it all was the dynamically shifting pace of the bass and drums, guiding the performance from the opening song, through energetic peaks and soft balladry, all the way to the end of the multi-song encore.

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Most captivating of the supporting band, however, was the backup singer. She matched much of the melodies with faultlessly commanding tones of her own, her precision and enthusiasm never once wavering even amid frequent runs backstage for costume changes. A definite highlight of the concert was a string of lyrical exchanges between her and Meat Loaf during Paradise by the Dashboard Light, culminating in a theatrical make out session between the two that was befitting of the song’s lustful subject matter.

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Further supplementing the presentation were sweeping lights, large-scale banners of man versus winged beast, and a T-shirt canon that Meat Loaf himself fired at all angles into the crowd. It was a concert that had it all, with the only possible substantial complaint of being that the spectacle came to an end too soon.

To step outside with a faint shade of light still in the sky was surreal after being immersed in such an enthralling experience that seemed as a realm of its own. Luckily, it is one than can be tapped into with the touch of a needle on vinyl, a laser on a compact disc, or any of the multiple audio formats that have evolved throughout Meat Loaf’s long and prolific career. But for just one evening it was truly exhilarating to have that world placed directly in a piece of the Okanagan Valley.

And for anyone who might have been wondering, Meat Loaf wholeheartedly confirmed that he still won’t do that. Whatever that is.

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