Roots Report: Getting Weird

"Weird_Al"_YankovicOkee dokee folks … I am going to use the “g-word” here. I am a bit hesitant to do so, but what the heck? Weird Al Yankovic is a genius! So he might not be a genius in the “Einstein way,” but he is a musical and comedic genius.

I had the rare opportunity to see Weird Al in concert at the Zeiterion Theatre in New Bedford. The show was sold out and I was lucky to score ONE ticket. The first thing I noticed when I got to the theater was that quite a few people were wearing aluminum foil hats and Hawaiian shirts. The merch table was buzzing with folks buying Al paraphernalia. The popular shirt seemed to be the one with Weird Al’s face emblazoned in the Che Guevara style. As I entered the theater I saw a large video screen behind the stage that had Yankovic’s visage in a retro, Soviet propaganda style with radiating colored lines that swirled around and seemed to suggest FUN would be MANDATORY. The house lights dimmed and the four piece band started playing. The video screen switched to a live feed from outside of the Z. Al was running around on the sidewalk and singing his opening number. He was dressed appropriately as he crooned “It might seem crazy, wearing stripes with plaid” from the song, “Tacky.” He made his way through the Z’s lobby and down the aisle onto the stage continuing to sing, “I would live-tweet a funeral, take selfies with the deceased, because I’m tacky…If I’m bitten by a zombie, I’m probably not telling you-because I’m tacky…If you don’t think that’s bad, guess what, then you’re tacky, too.”

gagayankFrom there he went into more Mandatory Fun with “Lame Claim to Fame.” Al asked, “Are you ready to Polka?” and then donned his accordion and plunged into his Polka medley, “Now that’s what I call Polka!” This consisted of bits from ”Too Fat Polka,” “Wrecking Ball,” “Pumped Up Kicks,” “Best Song Ever,” “Gangnam Style,” “Call Me Maybe,” “Somebody That I Used to Know,” “Sexy,” “Get Lucky” and more. Between songs the video screen kept the audience amused with clips of references to Weird Al in popular culture from the news, sitcoms and movies. Many celebs were included in these clips: Bill Maher, Mary Steenburgen, Celine Dion, Alex Trebek and more. There were also segments that appeared to have been produced for the concert. These were just as entertaining as the show! This gave Al and the band a few minutes to make the MANY costume changes throughout the night. He spoofed Lady Gaga with “Perform This Way” dressed in a furry octopus jacket and a large ice cream cone “smooshed” on his head. “Dare to be Stupid” (one of my fav’s) brought out the flower pot hats and yellow jumpsuits as he channeled his inner DEVO. He changed into a “fat suit” for his Michael Jackson spoof, “Fat.” “Foil,” a parody of “Royals” by Lorde had Weird Al wearing an aluminum foil hat, thus explaining the aforementioned tin foil hats. “Smells Like Nirvana” brought out the cheerleaders and grunge. Another medley followed with “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” and ended with “Canadian Idiot” and an explosion of red and white streamers.

“Wanna B Ur Lovr” sent Al off the stage into the audience for the entirety of the number. He sang to individuals and even crawled onto a few laps. He took things down a notch to mimic MTV unplugged and did a quieter, “lounge-ier”, mini acoustic set with new renditions of “Eat It,” “I Lost on Jeopardy,” “I Love Rocky Road” and “Like a Surgeon.” A Segway transported the “gangsta-looking” Yankovic onto and around the stage for the beginning of “White and Nerdy.” One of Weird Al’s most clever songs, “Word Crimes,” a lampoon of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” had Yankovic dressed in the black and white striped suit made famous by Thicke. Songs such as this show the attention to detail, knowledge and intelligence needed to create such a number. It actually far surpasses the original. “One thing I ask of you…Time to learn your homophones is past due…Learn to diagram a sentence too…Always say ‘to whom’…Don’t ever say ‘to who’…And listen up when I tell you this…I hope you never use quotation marks for emphasis” (I am sure that I am guilty of that!).

swyankThe signature suited garb and long beards of the Amish and “Amish Paradise” closed the set. He emulated a James Brown ending by having a silver cape thrown over his shoulders. “Want some more?” he screamed, “I can’t do no more!…I just got done explaining that to you!” and Al was led offstage. Thunderous applause and a standing “O” brought the keyboard player out in a dark, hooded robe. Stars lit the background of the stage. The cloaked figure went into “Phantom of the Opera” organ music. A satire song of a mock interview with Michael Stipe of REM was the basis for the first bit of the encore. “We all have cell phones so come on get real,” was assisted by audience vocals. Stormtroopers and Darth Vader entered. A light saber waved in the crowd. “The Saga Begins,” Al’s epic, mock “American Pie” got the fans singing more. The stormtroopers, decked out in their white plastic armor, were grooving to the music. The apropos follow-up piece, “Yoda,” sung to the Kinks’ “Lola” and interplayed with a bit of a capella “boom-lacka-lacka-boom” and “Frere Jaques” was the final ditty of the night.

The 18-song show ran about two hours and seemed to satisfy the Weird Al enthusiasts. Yankovic is funny, quirky, edgy and very talented. He is a master accordionist. It takes expertise, inventiveness and a rare gift to be able to compose the imaginative and knowledgeable lyrics, and to be able to morph from musical genre to genre. He is a chameleon when it comes to this. Yankovic sings caricatures of popular culture using a palette of pop songs. He is also in great shape for a 56-year-old man. He ran around much of the two hour show and did MANY high kicks that would have sent just about any man into a crouch of pain.

The Zeiterion was a perfect sized venue for this performance. It allowed the feel of a big show with the intimacy of a smaller venue. When Yankovic took it to the seats he was able to cover the whole crowd giving just about everyone a close up and personal view. The camera crew that followed him for his outdoor escapades and auditorium romping caught many of the show goers on camera, which were then projected onto the big video screen; I was one of the “lucky” ones to be seen on the screen. I am glad to say that I was able to see Weird Al Yankovic live. It was certainly an experience that I never thought I would have!

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