In Search of Paradise

Meat LoafSave for a few nights traversing the Midwest on his former 1985 Eagle Classic tour bus, I have little affinity for Marvin Lee Aday, aka Meat Loaf.

Still, I was thrilled when I spotted his brand-new documentary, “Meat Loaf: In Search of Paradise,” was on the MSG Network last night. (My wife, in contrast, was less enthused, so I set the DVR, continued reading New York Magazine until “The Closer” ended.) I turned it up, locked it in, and leaned back…

Meat Loaf’s “Bat Out Of Hell” is one of the best-selling albums of all time, moving nearly 40 million copies since it’s 1977 release. The LP continues to sell 200,000 copies annually. The albums successor, “Bat Out Of Hell” (with it’s 12:00 Wagnerian opus, “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)”) has sold 15 million copies since 1993. Meat Loaf, then, while less than a critical darling, still commands mass appeal.

The doc joins the 61-year-old rocker on the first day of rehearsals for his 2007 Bases Loaded Tour, then follows him for the few weeks of Canadian dates. From the first scene, the film is a warts-and-all portrait of life on the road, from the band’s humble, nondescript Burbank rehearsal studios, to Meat’s gray, cinder block dressing rooms.

“How glamorous is this?” Meat Loaf says to camera in one, generic, ramshackle hotel room. “Me and my baggie of Wheat Thins.”

More than the unglamorous underbelly of rock, though, the 90-minute doc reveals Meat Loaf as an excellence-obsessed, all-or-nothing performer. He is consistently displeased, and constantly berating himself. He appears hyper-sensitive, socially-phobic, and very possibly depressed. Moreover, performances leave him racked with an array of real or imagined ailments: vertigo, nausea, fainting spells.

As if Meat’s OCD and hypochondriasis — an apparent train wreck waiting to happen — is insufficient narrative tension, addition conflict is provided courtesy of critical response to portions of the band’s stage show. A live show staple for thirty years,

Still, Meat proceeds, limping off stage, leaning into his vaporizer, gobbling vitamins, and trying again the next night.

“I’m still waitin’ for the perfect show,” he says

Six months later, though, well after cameras ceased rolling, Meat stopped the band just a few notes into the opening number, and announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, I love you, thank you for coming, but I can no longer continue.” Remaining tour dates, including London’s Wembley Arena, were cancelled.

In a statement, the singer said, “I will be back.”

Sitting there in the dark, much of it resonated with me: his hyper-sensitivity, socially-phobia, and overwhelmingly apparent desire to be loved and appreciated by an anonymous audience. Something’s broken in Meat Loaf. Something’s broken in all of us — performers, perhaps, most of all.

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