Weird Al Yankovic Verizon Wireless Theater July 17, 2010
Aftermath is probably not going to write very many, and you're probably going to read even fewer, concert reviews that begin by delineating the finer points of parody and satire. But this is Weird Al Yankovic we're talking about here, so it seems appropriate.
We'll take you straight to the two terms as defined by dictionary.com:
Parody: A humorous or satirical imitation of a serious piece of literature or writing.
Satire: The use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing or deriding vice, folly, etc.
About as sharp-tongued as Weird Al ever gets is the litany of Great White North stereotypes on "Canadian Idiot" ("Well maple syrup and snow's what they export/ They treat curling just like it's a real sport") or mocking Kurt Cobain's unintelligible "Smells Like Teen Spirit" lyrics on "Smells Like Nirvana," which led the late grunge god to dub the now 50-year-old Yankovic a "musical genius." Weird Al may be the foremost parodist of the MTV (and now post-MTV) age, but when it comes to satire he's strictly softcore.
Or is he?
Individually, Yankovic's songs are about as innocuous as they come, true. But taken as a whole, his entire body of work is almost exclusively about two things: Food and pop culture, beginning with Boomer-beloved TV shows like The Flinstones and Gilligan's Island and cruising into the Internet era with Backstreet Boys spoof "I Got It on eBay" and the new "Craigslist," which, done as a druggy Doors fantasia, was one of Saturday's standouts.
Either in his lyrics, his interviews or the numerous Al TV excerpts that screened while he and the band were conducting their many costume changes Saturday, Yankovic wouldn't dream of overtly passing judgement on those twin pillars of the couch-potato lifestyle. But still, the sheer degree of inanity his songs achieve, from Devo rip "Dare to Be Stupid" to Charles Nelson Reilly-celebrating White Stripes goof "CNR," was so great that Aftermath got a whiff of an unspoken "Is this what you really want to do with your life?" undercurrent here and there.
Or maybe that's just what we wanted to find, what our critical eyes and ears have trained us to look for, or what we ourselves were thinking while trying not to cringe too obviously during the extended Star Wars encore of "The Saga Begins" - complete with one full-costumed Boba Fett and a whole line of Stormtroopers onstage - and "Yoda."
Because the truth is, go to a Weird Al show expecting any kind of deep social commentary and you're just simply going to the wrong show. Get lost in the corny lyrics and tacky celebration of all things kitsch and you might miss the deep outsider kinship Yankovic has with his fans.
And although he only gave us a little accordion - mostly on the opening "Now That's What I Call Polka" medley that mashed up Lady Gaga's "Poker Face, Kesha's "Tik Tok," Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl," T-Pain's "Alcohol," Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now" and a few others - you might miss some pretty exemplary musicianship from Yankovic and his longtime band too.
Their reproductions were impeccable, from the aforementioned Nirvana and White Stripes rock-outs - Presidents of the United States of America knockoff "Gump" was fun too - to the come-hither R&B of "Trapped In the Drive-Thru" and Prince-like "Wanna B Ur Lover." But New Wave is how they were bred and still what they do best, so both "Dare To Be Stupid" and "You Make Me" (which Aftermath's brother tells us is patterned after Oingo Boingo) were as clean and tight as they come. The computer in WarGames couldn't have programmed them any better.
Personal Bias: Moderate. Aftermath has never quite drunk all of Weird Al's Kool-Aid - our Mad magazine-bred brain prefers parodies with just a little more bite - but our brother is a huge fan. Also, when we talked to Yankovic before a 2006 show at Austin's Paramount Theater, he turned out to be one of the most intelligent and personable musicians we've ever interviewed.
The Crowd: White and nerdy in the extreme, and lots of families. You were expecting a bunch of Slayer fans?
Overheard In the Crowd: "'Master of Puppets!'" And, from one middle-aged guy sitting nearby, every...single... lyric.
Random Notebook Dump: The one truly WTF moment Saturday was a blink-and-you-missed-it clip of Al and a bunch of Krofft-like lifesize puppet/monsters thrashing around to Nine Inch Nails' "Head Like a Hole." If anyone knows where this might have come from, please send us a YouTube link.
One More: Although Verizon was far from capacity - calling the theater two-thirds full would be charitable, but reasonably accurate - Saturday had about the longest merch line Aftermath has ever seen at any venue. And there were enough items on display that each fan could have gone home with a different one.
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Polka Face (medley) You Make Me You Don't Love Me Anymore Smells Like Nirvana Skipper Dan You're Pitiful Dare To Be Stupid CNR Let Me Be Your Hog (all 17 seconds of it) Canadian Idiot Wanna B Ur Lover Medley: Money for Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies/ Whatever You Like/ I'm In Luv Wit Da Skipper/ Confessions Pt. III/ eBay/ Bedrock Anthem/ Another One Rides the Bus/ Ode to a Superhero/ Trapped In the Drive-Thru/ Gump/ Eat It Craigslist Amish Paradise White & Nerdy Fat
We All Have Cell Phones The Saga Begins Yoda