July 14, 2016
Where you see a show matters. It’s not something we as music fans dwell on most of the time, but it’s something we all know is true. There are specific venues in which you want to see specific acts for specific reasons. Beyond things like ease of parking and beer prices, venues matter because they’re part of the atmosphere of a show. They give concerts character, and can help or hurt a performance.
A little less than a year ago, Weird Al Yankovic came to Houston and put on a really fun show at Revention. There was nothing about the venue that hurt the show because at the end of the day, Revention is a perfectly fine place to put on a show. But at the time, it was easy to joke about seeing him play across the street at the Wortham Center because the venues share a parking lot and the idea of Weird Al in a fancy theater seemed delightful but unlikely.
And then he got booked at the Wortham Center, came back to town and put on a show that was largely the same on paper but felt different because of the surroundings. Walking into the theater didn’t feel like walking into a concert; it felt like walking into an Event.
I don’t think I was alone in feeling this way, either. The crowd was loud, much louder than they were last August when Al arrived and Mandatory Fun was still faintly new. On the floor and up in the balconies, people were all smiles and claps and cheers, and at times the atmosphere felt electric with joy.
If Al felt anything different, he didn’t show it. While it’s easy to respect him and his band as musicians because they’re so extremely talented, it’s also easy to miss while you’re getting swept up into the show just how seriously Al treats the serious things he does. He is, at all times, in character for whatever role a given song needs him to be, and he doesn’t crack. A great example is “Wanna B Ur Lovr,” where he straight-up ignores the dudes in the audience going for high-fives or trying to get his attention because the character singing that song would also ignore the dudes in the audience; that character is that sort of creep.
So yeah, he did perform the same songs in the same order as he did the last time he was here, but it works because he is extremely good at what he does and the Wortham Center felt like the right place for him to be. The surroundings made the show feel bigger physically and on a metaphorical level. It feels weird to label what Weird Al does live as a concert because it feels much more than that. Over his career, Weird Al Yankovic has earned his place in fancy theater venues; yes, his art may be writing food-centric parodies of pop songs, but he is the Shakespeare of that art. So, maybe I’ve had it backward before; it’s not that Al is worthy of playing the Wortham; it’s that the Wortham is worthy of hosting Al.
Personal Bias: “Confessions Pt. III” is my favorite underappreciated “Weird Al” song.
The Crowd: Nerdy, but in an adorable sort of way.
Overheard In the Crowd: “They’re not going to let you in with a detachable lens,” warned one Al fan as I, my +1 and my favorite combat-sports-loving, dance-music fan/photographer
Random Notebook Dump: The seats in the box we were sitting in had footrests under them that you could put in front of you if need be. I never realized what I was missing out on in not having a footrest at seated shows, because those things are dope.