Weird Al and I have a history. Before I was a teenager, I was regularly listening to the Dr. Demento program. A sixteen year old, accordion squeezing Yankovic had first met Dr. Demento (the disk jockey and music historian known to his family as Barry Hansen) in 1976 and slipped him a homemade tape with the song “Belvedere Crusin’.” With lines like “There’s something about a Comet that makes me want to vomit/And those Datsuns just ain’t worth a…fudgsickle,” Al was already staking a claim on his artistic turf. I clearly remember the early parody songs – “My Bologna,” “Another One Rides the Bus,” and “Yoda,” all staples on the Demento program. While fellow novelty artists like Ogden Edsl (“Dead Puppies”) and Tom T-Bone Stankus (“Existential Blues”) have faded into obscurity, Weird Al has made a sustainable and profitable career from his spoofs of popular music’s biggest hits. Long may he nerd.
Yankovic would probably be in the dustbin of pop music history, if not for the rise of cable television and MTV in the ‘80s. His music needs the corresponding visual images and they are a strong presence in his live show. Between almost every song, videos of Al are shown – a mixture of cartoons, Weird Al references of in popular culture, and his satiric celebrity interviews. Yankovic excels in sight gags and comedy sketches to the point where some of his video packages are more entertaining than his songs.
He almost sold out show at the Verizon Theater for this Friday night gig (it was a much bigger and more interestingly attired crowd than the venue had for recent concerts by Alice Cooper, Judas Priest, and Deep Purple). The opening number was “Tacky,” Al’s spoof of Pharell Williams’ “Happy,” which was performed by the band onstage while Al was on video walking through the backstage hallways, through the crowd, and finally making it to the stage and dancing like an electrified jellyfish. He stayed with his 2014 #1 pop album Mandatory Fun with his Southern Culture on the Skids style parody “Lame Claim to Fame,” then performed a medley of pop songs from the past few years (“Wrecking Ball,” “Pumped Up Kicks,” “Get Lucky,” etc.) in a polka format.
Al’s music draws you in because you are often hearing some of the most recognizable hooks and riffs in pop music. His band has the talent to move from hard rock, modern pop, and rap seamlessly and Al never breaks character during the show. There’s no moralizing or social commentary in his material. Silliness reigns supreme. He provides an escape from the dreary seriousness of modern pop music and modern popular culture. Al’s mass audience is not only based upon the appreciation of his humor, but by the complete lack of mean spiritedness in his approach. Nobody looks unusual at a Weird Al gig, because it’s a safe haven for nonjudgmental fun. He’s not always as clever as he and his audience thinks he is (take “Word Crimes,” please), but he certainly knows how to structure an entertaining show.
Highlights of the evening included the Devo style parody “Dare to Be Stupid,” his medley of songs performed as a solemn spoof of MTV’s Unplugged concerts with “Eat It” given an acoustic edge a la “Layla,” and his culture crossing “Amish Paradise.” By the time he performed hisStar Wars parody “The Saga Begins” for the encore, the entire audience was standing, swaying, singing along, as the Nerd King emulated the contemplative nostalgia of “American Pie.” I don’t want to live in Weird Al’s world, but it’s a comforting place for an occasional visit.
Grade – B+
Lame Claim to Fame
Now That’s What I Call Polka!
Perform This Way
Dare to Be Stupid
First World Problems
Smells Like Nirvana
Party in the CIA / It’s All About the Pentiums / Handy / Bedrock Anthem / Another One Rides the Bus / Ode to a Superhero / Gump / Inactive / eBay
Wanna B Ur Lovr
Eat It / I Lost on Jeopardy / I Love Rocky Road / Like a Surgeon
(Acoustic Medley, “Eat It” to… more )
White & Nerdy
We All Have Cell Phones
The Saga Begins
a soothing palette
seven weeks at # 1
Ice Cube is playing at the Belasco
return to the top of country
Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – January 1983 (Volume 14, Number 8)
a cow with eighteen udders
“a journey through his life, passions, influences, and enduring legacy”
the true Godfather Giannini Russo
Has Brit rock ever been worse?
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