Wednesday, October 12, 2011

"Weird Al" Yankovic's "Live! - The Alpocalypse Tour"

As a lifelong fan of "Weird Al" Yankovic (I still recall my very first introduction to him at a post-Junior High-play cast party; one of the older kids was blaring Yankovic's "In 3-D" cassette tape on an old-school boom box), I went into this one already knowing I was going to love it. The fact that I'd already seen Yankovic perform live twice this year laid the groundwork for my review of "Weird Al" Yankovic Live! - The Alpocalypse Tour , as recorded at one of his Canadian performances. Don't worry, though. I'm a fan, but not a total fanatic in a scary kind of way. Before 2011, I'd never been to one of his shows, so I had to make up for lost time.

Yankovic has always been able to make me laugh but I was also enthralled with his talents as a musician. Instrumentally, his parodies are always re-constructed from the ground up and I can't help but be impressed by how closely he mimics the originals. However, one thing I always found a bit frustrating was the fact that most people I encountered never really realized that Yankovic is also a very talented songwriter and performer. Believe it or not, he's not just some guy who changes the words to popular songs.

Yes, Yankovic made his mark by poking fun at pop culture, taking the biggest songs of the time and supplying his own new and twisted lyrics, often times opting to sing about food or television. But his parodies, as good as they are, are only half the story.

Literally.
On each of his albums the track listing alternates between send-ups of the latest Top 40 hits and Yankovic's own original compositions. His extremely-knowledgeable grasp of songwriting and music theory may come as a surprise to most people who only see Yankovic as the long-haired accordion player who occasionally throws one leg behind his head.

Which is why I'm so happy to see the release of "Weird Al" Yankovic Live! - The Alpocalypse Tour on DVD. Unlike any of his past releases, this project showcases Yankovic's vast array of skills that have, for the most part, gone unnoticed. After only a few minutes you can't help but admire Yankovic's energy, commitment, musicality (both vocally and accordion-ly), and his obvious know-how of what makes for an amazing live show. Yankovic isn't merely standing on stage behind a microphone singing silly songs...this guy performs.

The number of costume changes alone is staggering and Yankovic supports each wardrobe choice by completely embodying a vast array of characters:


  • With "Skipper Dan," his entitled thespian in a black beret, cape, and sunglasses morphs into a hapless Disneyland tour guide before your very eyes
  • On "Craigslist" he perfectly captures the essence of Jim Morrison in his white pirate shirt/leather pants combo
  • His red and black zebra-patterned suit couldn't more appropriately complement his suave Master of Bad Pick-Up Lines during "Wanna B Ur Lover"

Although this performance highlights songs from his latest album "Alpocalypse" (which I loved, of course. You can read my gushing review here), Yankovic is very much aware of the crowd-pleasers that made him who he is today and the audience delights to see him perform as Kurt Cobain from "Smells Like Nirvana," the bearded Lancaster, Pennsylvanian in "Amish Paradise," and fat Michael Jackson from...well..."Fat."

Joining Yankovic are his long-time faithful band members (Jim West, Steve Jay,  Rubén Valtierra, and Jon "Bermuda" Schwartz), each and every one of them amazing musicians in their own right and it's great to see them get a bit of very due time in the limelight. They're all eager to jump in on the joke with Yankovic and it's especially a lot of fun seeing them don costume pieces from the video of the Lady Gaga parody, "Perform This Way."

The concert ends with a Star Wars-themed encore that has arguably become the most popular aspect of the live Yankovic experience, culminating in the ever-evolving "Yoda Chant," a mash-up of nonsensical words, Hawaiian ditties, Jerry Lewis references, and rare Disney theme park music. Almost as much fun as watching Yankovic and the band perform gibberish in perfect sync with one another is watching the audience try to figure out exactly what in the world they're witnessing. The guy ain't called "weird" for nothin'.

The DVD clocks in at just under 90 minutes and that's not counting the three extra songs and tons of other goodies waiting to be discovered in the Bonus Features. To say the Comedy Central broadcast version of this concert wasn't able to completely capture all of the fun of this show is a severe understatement. If you caught the TV version and think you've already seen it all then I can only respond with the title of one of Yankovic's songs found within:

"Eat It."*

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*I know, I know, you saw that coming a mile away. Whatever, ya white & nerdy Canadian idiot. 

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