“Weird Al” Bombards Boston

October 16, 2011

by

Weird is good sometimes.

On Saturday night, “Weird Al” Yankovic, the frizzy-haired, accordion-toting champion of the world’s fanboys, rocked the Orpheum.

Yankovic is currently on tour to promote his thirteenth studio album, Alpocalypse, which was released in June.

Yankovic kicked the night off with “Polkaface,” his newest medley of popular music set to polka.  Such a medley is included on every album he puts out—each one serves to illuminate the silliness inherent in the lyrics of top hits by a simple shift of genre.  “Polkaface” included bits and pieces from artists such as Justin Bieber, Britney Spears, Owl City, and Lady Gaga.

Next, Yankovic whipped out a track from his new album: “TMZ,” a parody of Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me” that addresses the absurdity of paparazzi, tabloid media, and the public’s fixation over the lives of celebrities.  Swift’s original song is much less profound, however, to her credit, Swift is far prettier than Yankovic.

Weird Al

"Weird Al" performs in Austin, Texas in September. | Photo by Rick Kern.

“You Make Me” followed, it’s a rip-roaring oldie in the style of Oingo Boingo from Yankovic’s 1988 album, Even Worse.  At 51, Yankovic can still dance like a maniac.  His mane flopping and limbs swinging, he ran the risk of ripping out of his Hawaiian shirt and flinging off his Vans.

After three tunes, it was time for a costume change.  Of course, with Weird Al, never is there a dull moment, as clips from hilarious old Al TV specials were shown intermixed with references to Weird Al in movies and television.  Al TV is a series of comedy/music video specials created by Yankovic for VH1 and MTV, much of which features Yankovic cutting up celebrity interviews to make them look ludicrous.  Be sure to check out his interviews with Eminem, Celine Dion, and Robert Plant.

During his numerous costume changes, Yankovic also showed original sketches, like several alternate scenes from Titanic, and a phony movie trailer for Weird, a heart-wrenching musician biopic in the same realm as Walk the Line or Ray, and starring Aaron Paul.  I wish this movie were real.

When Yankovic returned, he was clad in a brown, green-striped sweater and moppy blonde wig, a la Kurt Cobain in the iconic “Smells Like Teen Spirit” music video.  Yankovic’s take on the song, entitled “Smells Like Nirvana,” tackles the famously incomprehensible way Cobain crooned.  Cobain supposedly replied, when Yankovic asked him for permission to write the parody, “It’s not going to be about food, is it?”

Cobain also told Yankovic he knew he’d made it when Weird Al was parodying his music, the first artist to say something along those lines.

Three new songs followed.  Two were originals: “Skipper Dan,” a melancholy tale of a failed actor who is forced to work at a theme park, and  “CNR,” a “Chuck Norris facts”-type homage to the flamboyant Charles Nelson Reilly.  The third was “Party in the CIA,” a subtly critical parody of Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the USA.”  It was bizarre to hear Yankovic happily sing about assassinating foreign heads of state and threaten the listeners, “Put your hands up and get in the van/Or else you’ll get blown away,” but the song is one of the best off Alpocalypse.

After “Canadian Idiot,” a maple-syrup-reference-filled parody of Green Day’s “American Idiot,” Yankovic donned a tiger-print suit for “Wanna B Ur Lovr,” a sultry endeavor in the style of Prince.  Venturing into the audience, he got up close and personal with many of his fans, spewing such lines as, “I wanna be your Krakatoa/Let my lava flow all over you,” and “I hope I’m not being forward/But do you mind if I chew on your butt?”

Orepheum

The Orpheum Theatre last night before the show. | Photo by Noah Eberhart.

Yankovic pleased fans of his old songs in the following medley, which included “Lasagna,” “I Want a New Duck,” and his first song, “My Bologna,” as well as new tracks “Whatever You Like,” and “Another Tattoo.”  It’s always impressive to see how Yankovic weaves together his live medleys, playing off the energy of each song as he flows into the next.

“Craigslist” brought out Yankovic’s best flailing and wailing Jim Morrison impression.  In tight jeans, a flowing white button-down, and a curly mess of a wig, he played the part of a pretentious lover of the popular website.  The song did a good job of imitating the Doors’ style, but was reminiscent of Yankovic’s other shopping-website-dedicated song, “eBay.”

Yankovic then tipped his hat to his musical weirdo superstar counterpoint, Lady Gaga.  Gaga’s recent hit “Born This Way” was fuel for friendly ridicule from Yankovic, who penned a parody poking Gaga for her outlandish sartorial tendencies.  Have you ever seen a grown man in a peacock suit?  I have.

The release of the satire earlier this year was not without controversy.  Originally, Yankovic was told by Gaga’s people that he was prohibited from putting the song on his then-upcoming album.  After Yankovic publically expressed his disappointment, it became clear that Gaga had not made the decision herself, nor had she even been notified of Yankovic’s request—the hullabaloo was simply a case of a manager going rogue.  Gaga immediately allowed Yankovic to release the song, and—I hope—fired that insolent manager.

For the next song, Yankovic got dweeby, barking the top hit from 2006’s Straight Outta Lynwood, “White and Nerdy,” from atop a Segway.  Speeding around the stage, I felt a twinge of fear for his well-being; Rammstein had a Segway incident on a tour in 2005 and had to cancel shows.  Clips of Donny Osmond dancing around and generally being silly played on the big screen as Yankovic rapped away about geeky things.

The show went from high-tech to medieval when Yankovic donned a beard and hat for perhaps his most famous song, “Amish Paradise.”  The audience cheered as Yankovic rapped, performed fly dance moves, and mimed churning butter (at least I think he was churning butter…).

For his final song, Yankovic bounced around in a fat suit for his Michael Jackson parody of “Bad,” “Fat.”  Imagine Bruce Vilanch with dark hair (or perhaps a clean-shaven Peter Jackson, circa 2003) rocking out and crotch-grabbing.

As he exited, the crowd demanded an encore.  They received one, in the form of Yankovic’s Star Wars suite: “The Saga Begins,” about Star Wars: Episode I, and “Yoda,” about Star Wars IV: A New Hope.  Storm Troopers and Darth Vader marched out onto the stage and stood as Yankovic sang—it would have been entertaining to see them really break it down and bust out some crazy moves, but oh well.  Break-dancing Storm Troopers may have to live forever in my brain.

This was my third time seeing Al live, and one thing always remains constant: the diversity of audience members: couples, families, bromances; punks, straight-laced folk, and people who looked like this was their first time off a computer in several years.  Despite the differences of those in the audiences, all seemed to enjoy the show—especially the guy in Box A.  I’m pretty sure that dude was dancing the entire time.

Weird Al makes a point of making his music family friendly, and this show was an occasion all could take something from.  Whether you were a seven-year-old laughing at Yankovic’s silly costumes, or a father of three chuckling at the subtleties in the lyrics, you could bathe in the absurdity of it all and take comfort in the fact that there was at least one person in the room who was weirder than you.