TORONTO - No one ever could describe Meat Loaf as undercooked.
He simmers. He sweats. He paces. He pounds his own head.
He pulls the hair of one of his guitarists, then head-butts the other. He is just plain loud.
So the question last night was whether the tiny, 1,500-seat Elgin Theatre in downtown Toronto would be big enough to contain the monster that is Meat Loaf as he performed selected and sequenced songs from his three Bat Out Of Hell albums.
Well, the aptly dubbed Bases Loaded extravaganza was quite an assault.
And while Meat Loaf and his band warmed up faster than the audience did, by the end he had the fans in the palms of his clammy hands.
"Do not let me see an usher come down any of these aisles," Meat Loaf -- who was born Marvin Lee Aday but has changed his first name to Michael -- prodded before the final song of the main set, which appropriately was Bat Out Of Hell.
The encore then consisted of two songs: His current hit It's All Coming Back To Me Now (he was joined on stage by Marion Raven for the duet) and Life Is A Lemon And I Want My Money Back.
This type of art-metal thing isn't for everyone, obviously. A show like this wouldn't really work in a bigger or less theatrical venue. And a certain suspension of disbelief is required.
For example, you need to believe that the 59-year-old Meat Loaf could be involved in a seductive give-and-take with one of his hot, young backup singers, Aspen Miller, who could be his daughter, or even his granddaughter if the pipes were working right. Miller took centre stage with Meat Loaf for songs like Paraside By The Dashboard Light and I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That).
But you know, Meat Loaf still plays the pudgy, horny teenager so convincingly that he somehow pulls it off without getting creepy. You cheer for him in a Chris Farley kind of way.
The crowd seemed to be a combination of those who enjoyed their first orgasmic experience while listening to Paradise By The Dashboard Light in the late 1970s, and those who were conceived to the strains of the same song. However, a common lament among the patrons was that Meat Loaf played Paradise too early, before many were prepared to be up and dancing.
But hey, this was a concept show, not a standard rock show. If you resisted the urge to roll your eyes and allowed yourself to go with it, you probably had a good time.
Bat Out Of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose was released on Halloween, hot on the heels (well, not quite) of the second instalment in 1993 and the first instalment in 1977. Bat III has received mixed reviews, but some of the songs work better live than they do on CD.
For someone who is used to playing arenas, is playing an intimate spot like the Elgin a tough adjustment?
"I don't care -- I've made the comment in the past that I can play the same show for four trees or 400,000 people because I don't rely on the audience to be the motivation," Meat Loaf said in a recent exclusive interview with the Toronto Sun. "Too many bands rely on the audience to be their motivation, and if they do that they suck as performers, bottom line."
Meat Loaf will tour bigger venues next year and he indicated a Toronto date is a near-certainty, "just not when it's cold."
Mmmm ... cold meatloaf.
But regardless of personal taste, as far as last night went, Meat was murder.