When I was a kid I wanted to be a rock star. Not necessarily a rock musician but a rock star. I’m sure we all did. The glamour of being on stage, being waited on hand and foot, but best of all, and be honest: the money. Big houses, dozens of cars, gold records lining the walls, groupies, etc. Ah yeah, the American Dream. None of us ever really gave a second thought to the rest of the rock and roll life and what it really entails. Even now I love documentaries and biographies of rock musicians, bands, actors, etc. There are a handful of books and documentary movies out there on the subject that would really blow your mind if you gave yourself a chance to indulge in them. Meat Loaf’s documentary film “Almost Paradise,” (now available on DVD) is one of them. Forget the glamour of the road and touring. This movie will blow that illusion right out of the water. It’s not all fun and games kids.
Directed by Bruce David Klein, “Almost Paradise,” was filmed over a two week period starting with the rehearsals for Meat’s 2007 “Seize the Night” world tour. If you’re a Meat Loaf fan and are familiar with the man himself then you know the stories of him passing out after every performance. This isn’t just an urban legend. It is actually the opening sequence of this film. And yes, even to this day, Meat can me found lying on the floor of his dressing room minutes after a show. Some things don’t change with age. The “Seize the Night” tour turned out to be an 18 month long extravaganza of lights, sound, stress, and worry. Throughout the film there are great and insightful interviews with the members of Meat’s band, Kasim Sulton (musical director and bass guitar) in particular. Kasim has been a main stay of the band for the better part of Meat’s almost 40 year career. Allen Kovac (Loaf’s manager for 15 years) and Eric Vetro (Meat’s vocal coach) also add interesting points of view of the legendary performer. Of course touring and travel nightmares are always fun, especially when they’re not yours. A quick commuter flight from Los Angeles to Vancouver Canada which normally takes four hours – not in this case, try twenty-one hours, in the bands case, forty-eight. Now that’s truly a trip from hell.
What seems to set this movie apart from others in this genre is the brutal reality of life on the road and the angst that goes along with it. There are few glamorous moments; all of them take place on the concert stage. This documentary tells the story of a man who at the tender age of 59, four decades in the Entertainment business, shows no signs of stopping but he is slowing a bit. Wouldn’t you? As an audience we’re taken into his world including the trials and tribulations of putting together a massive world tour and DVD shoot. The eighth show of the tour was scheduled to be filmed for a DVD release which turned out to be the “Three Bats Live,” DVD – essentially the best of the best in regards to the “Bat Out Hell,” trilogy. The first incarnation in the series, “Bat Out Of Hell,” has sold more than 50 million albums worldwide and still remains the number three biggest selling album of all time: its original release year was 1977 and is considered by many one of the greatest classic rock albums of all time.
It’s funny watching this film as a critic and a Meat Loaf fan. I can see both sides of the coin. Sure, critics can go a bit overboard and be completely off the mark when it comes to certain things. I suppose we never really give it too much thought what the artists we write about think of our reviews. I for one am always surprised when I find out that my work is actually read by those I scribble about. This is one glaring thorn in the side of Mr. Loaf. The critics have not always been kind to our hero, far from it. I saw the “Seize the Night,” show as well as “3 Bats Live.” Maybe it’s because I’m also a Meat Loaf fan that I didn’t see or hear the apparent flaws Meat did. I’m listening as an audience member. Yes the critic part does sneak in but what I can tell you is: if he really didn’t perform well or the shows were just awful that’s what I would have wrote. It’s just not the case. So for me watching this film and seeing the kind of reaction Meat had to the nonstop bashing of Canadian critics for one particular segment of the show was ridiculous. The target of their ridicule, the ultimate Meat Loaf classic, “Paradise By The Dashboard Light.” It’s rock and roll folks, not rocket science. Lighten up, it’s supposed to be fun and carefree. Maybe it’s just me but I just didn’t take it seriously. And I’m sure if you had asked anyone in the audience during these shows they would have come away with a completely different perspective than the critics and their overblown criticism. Their gripes about the song and the infamous ‘make out’ scene wouldn’t have even occurred to the fans that paid good money to be there. Unfortunately Aspen Miller (female featured vocalist) was also caught in the crossfire: she performs the classic with Loaf. Meat’s changing of the song was nothing short of hysterically brilliant. It is truly one of the highlights of the show. Talk about bringing back the good old days and nostalgia, Loaf did it all in one fail swoop.
Whether or not you’re a fan of Mr. Loaf (though it helps) “Almost Paradise,” is an exceptional look into the life of a musical legend, well a two week window anyway. Let us not forget he’s also an accomplished actor, can’t forget “Fight Club.” Meat’s own commentary and interviews in the film are fun, insightful, and at times ironic. Definitely check this film out. If you’re a fan of the man we lovingly call Meat you’re in for quite a wonderful surprise.