on 22 August 2008
What would "Weird Al" Yankovic be like "live"? I mean, when you are known for doing musical parodies and your music videos often have you dressed up like somebody else, how does this translate into a concert? What little I had seen of Weird Al on stage on MTV and such really gave me no indication of what a full assault on stage would be like. That is why "'Weird Al' Yankovic: Live!" exists. So that those of us who live so far off the beaten path that very few "BIG NAMES" actually make it to a local venue can confirm that they have been missing fun.
His 90-minute concert is from a 2000 tour, which followed the release the previous year of "Running With Scissors." Seven of the dozen songs from that album make it into the show, and they are mostly from the great "first side" of the CD and not from the downhill slide that follows "It's All About the Pentiums" on the "second side" as the last three tracks go down the drain. The first part of the concert is fairly straightforward. Mom and Dad Yankovic introduce their boy he jumps right into "Gump." Then he puts on the old accordion and launches into "Polka Power," "Jerry Springer," and "My Baby is in Love With Eddie Vedder." But then it starts to "snow," so Al has an excuse to pull "The Night Santa Went Crazy" out of the vault.
This sets up the next part of the evening's festivities as Al and the band don costumes to do "Dare to Be Stupid," "It's All About the Pentiums," "Germs," and "One More Minute." Then we get an updated parody of "Like a Surgeon," where the music is suddenly played with a decidedly Middle Eastern flavor and the infamous Madonna conical breast costume makes a return. But with the music I wonder if Weird Al is somehow working in a takeoff on Robert Plant and Jimmy Page's "Un-Led-ed" MTV special. There are layers here people, lots of layers. Plus Al sings hoping around on one leg with the other tucked behind his head. You think Madonna can do that?
If you are worried that Yankovic is not going to do your favorite song he tries to solve that in the Medley section, which works in "Pretty Fly for a Rabbi," "Another One Rides the Bus," "Rocky Road," "That Achy-Breaky Song," "Jurassic Park," "Grapefruit Diet" (darn, he worked it in), "I Lost on Jeopardy," and "Eat It." Then we are back to a big finish with more tunes in costume, namely "Smells Like Nirvana" (wow, he does it like nothing happened), "Bedrock Anthem," "Amish Paradise," and then after the intro from the video to allow the ultimate costume change, "Fat." If you know the "Running With Scissors" album then you know what the encore is going to be, namely "The Saga Begins," but then as a treat he tacks on "Yoda," which makes perfect sense.
Some clips from his videos work their way in (Don Pardo's "You're a complete loser!" speech and that wonderful moment when the T-Rex decapitates Barney). The music videos for "The Saga Begins" and "It's All About the Pentiums" are included in the special features, which makes sense since they both are from the "Running with Scissors" album, but if you already have "'Weird Al' Yankovic: The Ultimate Video Collection" (hand raised). There are some photographs to look at and credits, but then for a final taste of insanity there are a pair of "Educational Films." You know as soon as you click on this you are in trouble and it turns out to be double-trouble with the shorts "Crimes of Carelessness" and "Germs and You." "Hemo the Magnificent" and "Duck and Cover" were never like this.
Yes, it would be nice if there were more polka numbers, but you can really only do one of those in a concert the same way you can only have one on a "Weird Al" album. Yankovic puts a lot of energey into his concert, and once again I am struck by how good of a singer he is, not only in terms of his ability to imitate the vocal styles of such diverse performers as Kurt Cobain and Don McLean, but just how strong of a voice he has. For that matter, the boys in the band are not just going through the motions, which certainly indicates how far Yankovic has gotten from the early days when it was him on accordion and John "Bermuda" Schwartz banging away on anything but a real drum set. The best thing is that you know going in whether you are going to love "'Weird Al' Yankovic: Live!" or not, so you probably did not even bother reading this far and are already up to the third chapter of the concert.