Sunday, Aug. 26, 2012
Tonight @ Riverside Theater, 7 p.m.
Meat Loaf's blockbuster 1977 major-label debut, Bat Out of Hell, set the template for most everything the singer has recorded since: grandiose rock operas about hard-fought love, epic sex and death-defying adventure, set to a smirking score of blustery hard-rock guitars and grandly overblown Broadway arrangements and sung by a master straight man who brings passion and pathos to even the most jokey of lyrics. That formula has been the foundation for all of the singer's subsequent successes, both critical (his massive 1993 comeback album, Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell) and artistic (2010's spirited, if underselling, concept disc Hang Cool Teddy Bear, produced by longtime Green Day guiding hand Rob Cavallo). His latest album, however, breaks from that template a bit. Hell in a Handbasket is at once one of the singer's most stylistically varied efforts, featuring flirtations with contemporary country and hip-hop (courtesy of awesomely bizarre cameos from Chuck D and Lil Jon), and one of his most intimate, dialing back the musical overdrive of his Bat Out of Hell opuses for a relatively intimate set—at least by the standards of a veteran musical-theater performer whose works have always been defined by maximalist, showstopping excess.