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Meat Loaf: Bat on Broadway

Meat Loaf has always been more of a musical theater performer than a rock star, a point driven home whenever the portly powerhouse deviates from the dramatic "Bat Out of Hell" song cycles that have produced his best known material. The singer didn't stray from the "Bat" flight path once during this two-hour perf, during which he offered up all of the bombast, affectation and unreconstructed lung power he's come to embody over the years.

With:
Band: Meat Loaf, Kasim Sulton, Paul Crook, Randy Flowers, Mark Alexander, Dave Luther, John Miceli, Aspen Miller, Carolyn Coletti-Jablonski, Marion Raven. Conductor: Keith Levinson. Reviewed Nov. 2, 2006.

Meat Loaf has always been more of a musical theater performer than a rock star, a point driven home whenever the portly powerhouse deviates from the dramatic “Bat Out of Hell” song cycles that have produced his best known material. The singer didn’t stray from the “Bat” flight path once during this two-hour perf, during which he offered up all of the bombast, affectation and unreconstructed lung power he’s come to embody over the years.

Ostensibly designed to promote “Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose” — the third and final disc in a trilogy that he and on-again, off-again collaborator Jim Steinman began crafting back in the ’70s — this one-night stint was shrewdly frontloaded with the most wending (and most involving) tunes from the first disc in that three-pack.

Despite his pickup-truck physique, Meat Loaf asserted his ability to go from 0 to 60 with sports-car speed in a fierce set-opening version of “All Revved Up and No Place to Go” — and reverse field just as readily on “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.” Latter song, one of the more clumsily staged of the perf’s set pieces, hit some sour notes — figuratively speaking — when Loaf and duet partner Aspen Miller lapsed into a dirty dancing routine in which her skimpy cheerleader outfit served mostly to emphasize the fact that she’s young enough to be her leading man’s daughter.

That distraction aside, Miller generally provided a fine foil for the singer, taking on the Ellen Foley/Karla DeVito role without projecting an understudy vibe.

Meat Loaf himself proved to be in surprisingly strong voice, bulling through the thick arrangements — on which his touring band was augmented by a small orchestra — with the expected muscle and even, as on a post-intermission “Objects in Rearview Mirror,” a whiff of subtlety.

That aspect went out the window, however, on the passel of tunes culled from “The Monster Is Loose,” an incoherent exercise in genre-jumping that rivals “The Godfather: Part III” in the disappointing sequel stakes. Here, Loaf and band emphasized the disc’s most overwrought numbers, from the title track’s lumbering nu-metal to the paint-by-numbers industrial thrashing of “If It Ain’t Broke, Break It,” both of which reduced the singer to tuneless bellowing.

Ballad-heavy encore had its share of cheesy moments — bat wings on the backing singers, for one — but Loaf’s vocal perf was agreeably larger-than-life. That was particularly true when the singer dueted with Scandinavian teen-pop alumna Marion Raven on “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now,” a song popularized by Celine Dion, whose path to Vegas Loaf seems destined to follow before long.

Meat Loaf: Bat on Broadway

Palace Theater, New York; 1,740 seats; $225 top

Production: Presented by the Nederlander Organization.

Cast: Band: Meat Loaf, Kasim Sulton, Paul Crook, Randy Flowers, Mark Alexander, Dave Luther, John Miceli, Aspen Miller, Carolyn Coletti-Jablonski, Marion Raven. Conductor: Keith Levinson. Reviewed Nov. 2, 2006.

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