LIVE: Weird Al Yankovic @ the Palace Theatre, 7/11/15
Review by Greg Haymes
In the here-today-gone-tomorrow world of novelty song hitmakers, the accordion-wielding Weird Al Yankovic stands out as the most successful joke-tunesmith since the days of the manic and marvelous Spike Jones.
Obviously, he’s no flash-in-the-pan, and in fact, the Weird One has managed to build his initial novelty foray of “Another One Rides the Bus” (or was it “My Bologna”?) into a bona fide musical career that’s landed him hits in four decades… so far.
At Albany’s Palace Theatre, the Mandatory World Tour show started on the big screen behind the band – or rather, it started on North Pearl Street outside the Palace, as Yankovic emerged from the back of a tour truck, danced his way down the street and through the Palace doors, and finally emerged at the back of the theater to bounce down the aisle to the stage. He was followed all the while by a camera man, who broadcast it all on the screen, as Yankovic sang “Tacky” (Pharrell Williams’ “Happy”). A brilliant opening…
And as good (and still downright funny) as his music is, Yankovic’s true talent is in video, as evidenced by his success on MTV and YouTube, as well as his live concert. Between songs at the Palace, the on-stage screen served up head-spinning mash-ups of film clips, TV commercials (Slinky!), cartoons, faux interviews and an all-around pop-culture pastiche. A nifty send-up of “Whiplash” was spot-on, as were film trailers for “Gandhi II” (as a blaxsploitation parody) and “Weird” (a revealing peek at “the dark side” of Weird Al breaking bad, starring none other than Aaron Paul as Yankovic – a brilliant bit of casting).
Which is not to take anything away from his obviously considerable talent as a lyricist of pointed (and sometimes just plain silly) parody songs. They didn’t all work – “Foil” (Lordes’ “Royals” done up as a kind-of TV food infomercial) didn’t really hit the mark lyrically or musically – but the vast majority of them did, including classics like “Smells Like Nirvana” (featuring a pair of dancing cheerleaders on loan from DiCarlo’s), “Fat” (yeah, the fat suit always gets ’em), “Perform This Way” (with Yankovic decked out in some sort of purple octopus outfit in a valiant attempt to out-Gaga Lady Gaga) and “White & Nerdy” (with Yankovic entering on a Segway – remember them?).
Of the new Mandatory Fun songs, “Word Crimes” (Robin Thicke-by-way-of-Marvin Gaye’s “Blurred Lines”) took top honors as a not-just-clever-but-really-smart and sophisticated collection of grammar lessons for the illiterates of the social media generation.
Backed by his exceptionally versatile four-piece band, Yankovic strapped on his accordion to fire up his NOW That’s What I Call Polka! medley, which included “Wrecking Ball,” “Call Me Maybe,” “Sexy & I Know It,” “Thrift Shop,” “Somebody That I Used to Know,” “Pumped Up Kicks” and more. And he took the slow-jam seduction song, “Wanna B Ur Lovr,” out into the crowd, offering a few lap dances to audience members along the way.
But the undeniable musical and conceptual highlight of the two-hour concert was a mid-show, sit-down, unplugged session in which Yankovic and the boys offered up acoustic, lounge-like, radically reworked interpretations of such Weird Al hits as “Eat It, “I Lost On Jeopardy, “I Love Rocky Road” and a stunning “Like a Surgeon.”
Who says that you can’t parody a parody?
Alexander Stern’s review at The Times Union
WEIRD AL YANKOVIC SET LIST
Lame Claim to Fame
Medley – NOW That’s What I Call Polka! (too many songs to name)
Perform This Way
Dare to Be Stupid
First Worlds Problems
Smells Like Nirvana
Medley – 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
Wann B Ur Lovr
Acoustic Medley – Eat It/I Lost On Jeopardy/I Love Rocky Road/Like a Surgeon
White & Nerdy
We All Have Cell Phones
The Saga Begins