Lessons From Meat Loaf

Last night Adventure Guy and I decided to take full advantage of our current childless home and go out for a night on the town.  It’s not as if we never go out when the kids are home, but we don’t usually venture quite so far out of our suburban comfort zone.  This time, we made it all the way downtown to the artsy movie theater to see Meat Loaf:  In Search of Paradise

This documentary follows Meat Loaf of Paradise By The Dashboard Lights fame on the world tour for his third album, Bat Out Of Hell III.  I went in to the theater expecting to be entertained and left with a greater appreciation for Meat Loaf as a performer and as an artist (okay, I’ll admit that even seems funny to type!). 

When the film opens, Meat Loaf, then 59 years old, is in rehearsals for the beginning of the Canadian leg of his tour, a tour expected to last 18  months.  The pressure is on because he and his band will be filming the DVD for the tour during the eighth show, leaving little time to really polish the act before it’s recorded for posterity.

Meat Loaf comes across as both a prima donna at times and as a perfectionist–a performer who is never satisfied with his work, regardless of what the critics say.  Early on in the film, he professes to ignore the critics but soon shows that any negative comments affect him and his view of himself.  He particularly takes issue with the critics’ criticism of the staging of his most famous number, Paradise By The Dashboard Lights, with his young backup singer. 

But what makes this film work is the humor interspersed throughout.  Meat Loaf seems to have a handle on what makes his act work and on what makes him work.  He laughs at the “glamorous” life of a rock star by pointing out how he’s hanging out in a hotel room eating Wheat Thins.  He confesses to not really knowing what to say at “meet and greet” events and prefers to spend time alone, just as he did in high school as an overweight misfit.

And it’s that overweight misfit that seems to come out at the conclusion of each show, when he’s backstage away from the adoring fans.  When each time he states that his performance just wasn’t good enough, wasn’t what he’d  hoped for. These moments made me feel sad that with all he’s accomplished, Meat Loaf still hasn’t really learned to accept himself.

This is the part where the lesson comes in.  I know I also tend toward perfectionism, toward sometimes choosing not to do something if I can’t do it really well.  I’m hard on myself, harder than others are on me.  And, while Meat Loaf certainly demonstrates that he too is hard on himself, he doesn’t let that stop him from getting out there and performing, getting out there and giving the show  everything he’s got.  It’s a good lesson to learn, and one I hope to take more to heart.

And, while I’m busy working on that, I recommend you see Meat Loaf: In Search of Paradise.  It’s now available on DVD.



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