Al Yankovic Gets Weird With A Symphony Orchestra At The Pavilion

Weird Al Yankovic in rare form out of costume
Weird Al Yankovic in rare form out of costume Photo by Christi Vest
Weird Al Yankovic
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
June 15, 2019

About halfway through his performance at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion Saturday night, Weird Al Yankovic disappeared backstage for one of his many wardrobe changes. In his absence, the screens behind and on either side of the stage began playing a montage of references to the Grammy Award winning satirist in popular TV shows.

Clips from "The Simpsons," "Friends," "King of the Hill," "30 Rock," "Family Guy" and even "Teen Titans" were shown, and each of them paid reverence to the longtime parody man, even if Hank Hill mistakenly believed Yankovic "blew his brains out in the '80s after people stopped buying his records."

When the singer-songwriter reemerged, he was donning an energy dome hat, goggles and a white coat for "Dare To Be Stupid," which mimicked the rock band Devo's entire catalog. Many of the lyrics were clearly insincere - Let the bed bugs bite. Put all your eggs in one basket. - but the song's general theme rang true.

Because Yankovic has made a career out of daring to be stupid. With 14 studio albums and nearly as many million sales to his name, the California-born comedian has made a good living from poking fun at pop culture. Occasionally, it has poked back, and he has taken it in stride.

At Saturday's show, Yankovic performed plenty of his well-known spoofs, from the Madonna rip "Like A Surgeon" to "Word Crimes," which shares a likeness with Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" but is infinitely more creative.

He also played some of his deeper cuts, including "The Biggest Ball Of Twine In Minnesota" and "Harvey The Wonder Hamster," which Yankovic told the crowd he has always wanted to perform live but felt ill equipped to do so without the backing of a symphony orchestra.

This go-round, he was joined onstage by a guitarist, a pianist, a drummer, three backup singers and, you guessed it, a 41-piece symphony orchestra.

Near the end of "Jurassic Park," when the limelight was on the orchestra and the backup singers, Yankovic sat down. As his bandmates continued playing, he was brought a warm towel, a refreshing cocktail and his phone. After checking a few emails, he rejoined his peers for the final chorus.

During "Smells Like Nirvana," he donned a striped shirt and a blond wig for his best impression of the late Kurt Cobain, who famously claimed he realized his band had "made it" when Yankovic came calling. And of course, "White And Nerdy," his satirical take on Chamillionaire's 2005 breakthrough hit "Ridin'," brought the crowd to its feet as Yankovic zipped around the stage on a segway scooter, sporting a red do-rag and a black hoodie.

The evening was capped off with an encore dedicated to "Star Wars," during which eight Stormtroopers and Darth Vader joined the musicians onstage for "The Saga Begins" and "Yoda." It was part concert, part comedy routine and wholly entertaining.

Hank Hill was wrong, by the way. No one stopped buying Yankovic's records. In fact, his last proper album, 2014's Mandatory Fun debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 - a first for the famed satirist. And while YouTube, Twitter and Instagram have made them more prevalent than ever before, a nearly sold-out Pavilion made it clear that there's still a clear king of musical pastiches.

I Lost On Jeopardy
I Love Rocky Road
Like A Surgeon
The Biggest Ball Of Twine In Minnesota
Word Crimes
Jurassic Park
Don't Download This Song
Weasel Stomping Day
You Don't Love Me Anymore
Harvey The Wonder Hamster
Jackson Park Express
Smells Like Nirvana
Dare To Be Stupid
White & Nerdy
Amish Paradise
The Saga Begins
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Matt is a regular contributor to the Houston Press’ music section. He graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in print journalism and global business. Matt first began writing for the Press as an intern, having accidentally sent his resume to the publication's music editor instead of the news chief. After half a decade of attending concerts and interviewing musicians, he has credited this fortuitous mistake to divine intervention.
Contact: Matthew Keever