BAT: The Music of Meat Loaf | 02.26.22 | River City Casino & Hotel, 777 River City Casino Blvd. | 21+ | $19.50-$39.50
Our intrepid interviewer and all-around music-loving fan girl got to have a quick conversation with Caleb Johnson about his upcoming role as Meat Loaf in BAT: The Music of Meat Loaf, the musical featuring the famed Bat Out of Hell singer’s catalog of hits coming to St. Louis this month. Long in the works (the St. Louis date is rescheduled from an original date of last October), Meat Loaf himself was intimately involved in the development of the musical prior to his passing last month, it was produced by his musical director/guitarist/record producer Paul Crook, and features Johnson (best known as the winner of season 13 of American Idol) backed by Meat Loaf’s actual band, The Neverland Express.
In preparing for this interview, I spent a week listening to his music and I have to tell you: this guy can sing. I’m often suspicious of cover folks. Unless you’re Jamey Johnson or Adam Lambert, go have a seat, you know? It’s not just his vocals that made me say, “Okay, I’m with you Mr. Johnson, sing on,” but the passion in his voice. His new videos and album are fantastic. I will begrudgingly go to this musical.
Begrudging because I don’t like musicals. I mean, Avenue Q, sure, but that’s about it.
However, I like Meat Loaf and I really like Caleb’s voice, so my first question was:
The Arts STL: Caleb, I don’t like musicals. [Caleb laughs, thank god] If you had to convince me, the lady who rolls her eyes at Phantom of the Opera (he’s a stalker and you know it), how would you convince me to come to this show?
Caleb Johnson: The show is just a big, bombastic, theatrical rock and roll show. It’s over the top, heavy metal, motorcycles, car crashes, giant mutant bats, it’s…
Listen, buddy, you had me at giant mutant bats.
A plethora of awesome. [laughs] In a nutshell, that’s what this show is.
Obviously we just lost him, but Meat Loaf had been trying to make this happen for quite a while and was very involved.
He’d been working it for a few years for sure, and his passing was so sudden and tragic. We know that this is what he would have wanted, for us to keep the spirit and legacy of the show alive. It’s a great honor for me to carry this on.
It’s much more poignant now with his passing. Did you get to perform with him or for him?
Yes, in Nashville last year! It was an amazing opportunity.
I can’t imagine performing for someone as them. Like, “I’m going to be you now. Please don’t hate it.” How on earth did you do that?
It was amazing. We had a relationship and kind of a harmony established and it came along seamlessly.
That’s so sweet. I love that. My husband and I will be there, and we were both raised properly listening to Meat Loaf. What is the part of the show that we should really pay attention to? Which is your favorite to perform?
Probably “Bat Out of Hell.” It was one of my favorite songs as a kid, and resonates with me the most. It’s one of the harder songs to sing and such a familiar song, the audience goes wild.
The audience feedback is intense?
Yeah—I usually get a standing ovation.
I can’t wait to hear. Who are your vocal influences, by the way?
Top five is for sure Meat Loaf, Chris Cornell, Aretha Franklin, Freddie Mercury, and Bob Seger.
I can appreciate that. You don’t hear Bob Seger referenced a lot but he has been seriously influential in music.
I love the belters.
Are there any other female singers that you are influenced by?
Ann and Nancy Wilson from Heart, Patti LaBelle, Janis Joplin…
Like Big Mama Thornton, sing-from-your-diaphragm type singers.
You should check out Yola—she’s like Tina Turner and Aretha spent serious time together.
Ohhhh, yes! And Tina Turner—I love her.
Before I let you go, I always ask people what they like to do in the cities that they visit. What’s your favorite thing?
Oh, the food is up there. The local historical sites are really meaningful to me, so when I look back, I can see things that were important to the communities that I sing to. I want to see and experience as much as I can of the culture of the city when I’m in it.
Well, we do have an Arch—you should know that you should be VERY close friends with the people you share the little cars to the top with. It’s very intimate and you might be engaged by the time you reach the top. Also, it moves when the wind blows. No one told me that before I went in. There should be a sign.
Thank you for the heads up, man. I appreciate it. Duly noted
MC – Also, the City Museum is like a funhouse designed by artists which is essentially a playground for adult children. It’s amazing. There’s a plane on the roof and a Ferris wheel and a ten-foot slide.
CJ – I’m in.
I can’t imagine how busy you are. From what I’ve heard of your vocal talent and your enthusiasm for this show, this is going to be a fucking amazing show. I can’t wait to see it.
Oh, man. I’m looking forward to a musical. Shit. | Melissa Cynova