Meat Loaf, at Frankfurt's Festhalle in 1994.

Meat Loaf, at Frankfurt's Festhalle in 1994. (Michael Abrams / ©S&S)

Meat Loaf, at Frankfurt's Festhalle in 1994.

Meat Loaf, at Frankfurt's Festhalle in 1994. (Michael Abrams / ©S&S)

(Michael Abrams / ©S&S)

(Michael Abrams / ©S&S)

(Michael Abrams / ©S&S)

First, there was rock. Then came wretched excess. And then — Meat Loaf,

Meat Loaf is piping hot again, 17 years after he and composer Jim Steinman first struck rock 'n' roll with a hammer from the gods straight out of a Wagnerian opera.

On the 1993 sequel to 1977's Bat Out of Hell, rock's Pavarotti has a plateful of new, so-big-they're hard-to-swallow, Steinman-penned songs to chew on, and a new tour with the trappings of big success that played Frankfurt, Germany, this week.

"Open your soul, and let all your rock 'n' roll dreams come through," Meat Loaf exhorted the tightly packed, wildly appreciative crowd at the Festhalle.

No one followed his advice better than ol' Meat himself.

For more than two hours, mega lights, a six-piece band, costume changes and fireworks all decorated the bombastic splendor of new opuses like I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That) from the 6-month-old Bat Out of Hell II and old classics from its 1977 progenitor.

At 46, the former Marvin Lee Aday cut a sweaty, theatrical, even heroic figure onstage. In spite of his still considerable size, the Falstaffian singer is trimmer than he was at his bulky peak in the late 1970s, and he moves grandly, eloquently in interpreting Steinman's grandiose songs.

Tenderly and sweetly, Meat Loaf sang I'd Do Anything for Love, the first hit off the current album, framed by lights forming a multipointed star.

The show's real fire-breather was a rip-snorting, hellbent-for-leather Bat Out of Hell, with the dubious honor of Real Snoozer of the Evening going to Objects in the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are. (Meat claims the latter is "the best song Steinman's ever written." I beg to differ.

As pleasant as were songs such as Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through, which was sung against a starlit backdrop, the show's one real clunker was truly a dog. Unfortunately, it was — for some of us, anyway — the most-anticipated songs in Meat's repertoire.

The salacious, tense rock operetta Paradise by the Dashboard Light was flabby and overlong, with the lip-licking anticipation so necessary to the work's climax absolutely lost. Crass, unfunny dialogue, sounding suspiciously like An Evening With Tom and Roseanne Arnold, dragged this gem of a rock vignette into a mire of white trash. Yecchh.

The show ended with an explosion and a gentle rain of silver confetti that hugged the air before drifting to the ground.

As a spectacle, this would-be epic had its moments. But Meat Loaf the performer shares a quality or two with his namesake, a reassuring comfort food that can be jazzed up with a little steak sauce or a couple of peppers. Underneath it all, though, it's still a big, no-fuss helping of meat and bread.

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