by Dan Radin
When it comes to weird (and parodies), “Weird” Al Yankovic truly is the undisputed king.
Al entered the sold-out Bass Concert Hall with the lumbering hunch of your typical IT helpdesk technician, yet carried the poise of a world-class entertainer. It was hard to remember the dude is pushing 70 years old; he’s continued to keep himself relevant by ripping today’s music hits with his gleeful parodies and music videos.
Al’s theatrical set was well-rehearsed and inclusive to the age-diverse audience. Short of a Broadway production, it featured music videos, many costume changes, and playful shorts between songs. Al nailed his high notes while jumping around on stage, and flipping high-split kicks with the grace of a man a third his age. It was impressive.
“Part of my job is to come through town every few years, and to make sure you people are keeping Austin weird,” mused Al to thunderous applause. “And now, I’d like to sing a little song about a twine ball.”
Al mixed in deep cuts like “I Love Rocky Road” (“I Love Rock n Roll”) with “Word Crimes” (Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”) to the backdrop of the lyric music video. The songs were further augmented by 41-piece symphony Strings Attached, who opened the show with movie favorites like Indiana Jones and Star Wars, then superbly added orchestral depth to Al’s catalog – starting with the horns in Madonna spoof “Like a Surgeon.”
“OK, I know what you’re all waiting to hear… drum solo!” Tension built. The crowd was dead silent. Then Al’s drummer paused… and hit his snare literally two times. The audience roared in laughter.
Seated on a stool, Al took an acoustic guitar in his lap. At each verse he lifted it like he was going to play it, took a breath, then put it down and continued into the next verse, singing only. With each build, and Al’s picking the guitar up, the audience anticipated playing the instrument even more- but Al never actually played it. At the song’s conclusion, he lifted the acoustic guitar by the neck high overhead, then smashed it to splinters on the stage. Among the laughter, you could feel the Austinite musicians cringing.
The big screen behind supplemented Al’s antics. He launched into “Tacky” (to Pharrell’s “Happy”), roaming down into the audience with a freehand camera on him that broadcast onto the big screen on stage. He moved deep up the aisles of the auditorium, singing his parody, stretching his legs up on seat arms, waving his junk in some poor audience member’s laughing faces.
During costume changes, the projector showed a highlight reel of Weird Al’s many pop culture cameos. One may forget how many productions the guy’s been in- mentions and guest spots in everything from 30 Rock, to The Simpsons, to Friends, to his own TV show.
Al emerged from backstage dressing the part for his biggest hits: an all-black hat and beard spectacle for “Amish Paradise”, viking horns for “Weasel Stomping Day,” Kurt Cobain/Nirvana wigs and jeans for “Smells Like Nirvana”. The audience roared when they caught Al rolling “White and Nerdy,” rocking a full do-rag/chains/hoodie, wheeling on a full-sized Segway. The encore showcased R2D2, dancing Stormtroopers, and Darth Vader, while Al (in Luke Skywalker robes) crooned “The Saga Begins” (Don McLean’s “American Pie”).
With his modern-day parody success, it’s hard to remember that Al’s been an icon in American comedy and pop culture for FOUR decades. Seeing the concert hall stuffed with adoring fans of all ages, most wearing tinfoil headgear and floral print shirts, the man has clearly left his mark.
Austinites keep Austin weird; “Weird” Al keeps everywhere weird.
Check out our complete photo gallery from the show.