“He who is tired of Weird Al is tired of life.”
– Homer Simpson
Yeah, that just about sums it up. Weird Al Yankovic and his band took over the Palace Theatre in Albany on Tuesday night and served up a wonderfully entertaining evening of laughs, theater, film clips and lots of music.
Once simply a song parodist, Yankovic has evolved over the course of his impossibly long career, and he now not only skewers top pop hit songs but also the entire realm of popular culture that spawns them:
Madonna, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” Alanis Morissette, Spam, MTV, the Doors, Billy Joel, frozen waffles, Kid Cudi, the Kinks, Jamie Foxx, Don McLean, “Avatar,” Huey Lewis & the News, Miley Cyrus, lasagna, Pink, Ronald Reagan, Santa Claus…
Song parodies and novelty songs are the stuff of one-hit wonders: Napoleon XIV’s “They’re Comin’ to Take Me Away,” Elmo & Patsy’s “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” the Detergents’ “Leader of the Laudromat”… So it’s almost unbelievable that Yankovic and his accordion have not only survived, but actually thrived over the course of a career that’s spanned three and a half decades.
And he’s still funny. Very funny. More than a few die hard fans in the crowd at the Palace were singing along with songs like “Spam” (R.E.M.’s “Stand”), “Canadian Idiot” (Green Day’s “American Idiot”) and “eBay” (the Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way”). Heck, some of ’em were reciting the lines to the filmed comedy bits that were screened onstage to provide Al and his pals time to change into their next costume.
And there were lots and lots of costume changes during the two-hour-plus show. The black-suited agents of “Party in the CIA.” The spot-on grunge band of “Smells Like Nirvana.” The wanna-be rapper of “White & Nerdy.” The Amish man of “Amish Paradise.” The dead-on Jim Morrison impersonation on “Craigslist.” And, of course, the fuzzy, pudgy peacock of “Perform This Way.”
Donny Osmond, “Star Wars,” Taylor Swift, iPods, Keith Richards, Lady Gaga, tattoos, Coolio, R.E.M., celebrity TV, B.o.B., Sting, Kinko’s, Celine Dion, Katy Perry, Nirvana, Flo Rida, “The Addams Family,” Green Day, Top Ramen, Britney Spears, Chamillionaire, Gene Rayburn…
And it’s nearly impossible to pull off a successful song parody unless the musical foundation is as solid as the song that’s being parodied. So hats off to Yankovic’s longtime bandmates – Jim Kimo West (guitar, banjo, mandolin), Jon Bermuda Schwartz (drums), Ruben Valtierra (keyboards) and Stephen Jay (bass) – who nailed everything from hip-hop to punk to polka… and were willing to dress up in ridiculous costumes and get silly while doing it all.
While Yankovic has made his name as a parodist, some of his best moments were original songs – most notably “CNR” (the most absurd song of the night, a southern-rock tribute to Charles Nelson Reiley) and “Skipper Dan” (a hilarious and yet almost poignant tale of a wanna-be thespian who is stuck acting as an amusement park tour guide).
The show came to a rousing finale with Yankovic’s fab “Fat,” melding his original music video of the Michael Jackson parody with his live performance in a roly-poly fat suit. After that, even the encore of back-to-back “Stars Wars” tales – “The Saga Begins” (Don McLean) and “Yoda” (the Kinks) – seemed anti-climactic.
The Knack, Bruno Mars, Los Lobos, Michael Jackson, the FBI, Lady Antebellum, styrofoam peanuts, “The Beverly Hillbillies,” Mark Knopfler, Clay Aiken, Jerry Lewis, paparazzi, Survivor, Kevin Federline, T.I., Canada, Jim Croce, “The Match Game,” Justin Bieber, Eminem…
Excerpt from Brian McElhiney’s review at The Daily Gazette: “They kicked it all off with a polka medley — this time out it was ‘Polka Face,’ the Lady Gaga framed piece found on Yankovic’s latest album, ‘Alpocalypse.’ The album got heavy play this evening — ripping versions of ‘TMZ’ and the Miley Cyrus takeoff ‘Party in the CIA’ all stood up to the live treatment. The latter, in fact, is a sure bet to stick around longer than its source material (Cyrus’ ‘Party in the U.S.A.’). It’s a testament to Yankovic’s enduring strength as a satirist that his set drew all the way back to the ’70s, and also included songs from the album right before ‘Alpocalypse,’ ‘Straight Outta Lynwood.’ Really, how many artists that have been playing that long hit on just about every era of their careers in a live show — and receive the same level of applause and audience interest for all of it?”
WEIRD AL YANKOVIC SET LIST
The Polka Face Medley
Frank’s 2000 Inch TV
Smells Like Nirvana
Party in the CIA
Wanna B Ur Lovr
Medley: Money For Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies / Whatever You Like / Another Tattoo / eBay / I Want A New Duck / Theme From Rocky XIII / Spam / My Bologna / Ode To A Superhero / Lasagna / Eat It
Perform This Way
White & Nerdy
The Saga Begins