A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 93 – “Weird Al” Yankovic Live!

“Weird Al” Yankovic Live! – June 1st, 2010

I don’t really go to concerts. I can count the actual concerts I’ve been to on my hands. Not my fingers, my hands. That’s two, for those bad at math (like me!) and they were both They Might Be Giants (I almost saw Nightwish, but their instruments got stranded in Mexico City). Part of my lack of concert-going experience is that I don’t like crowds and the other part is that I am enormously skilled at getting vicious headaches. It’s a super power, what can I say. All that being said, I would go to see Weird Al. I would love to see him live because he is fucking awesome. So yeah, this is as close as I’ve gotten so far.

But wait. Why are we doing a concert DVD? Because we decided to count movie-length recordings of live performances. We’ve got a couple. This, Pink Floyd’s Pulse, Woodstock’s kind of a grey area, but then there’s Into the Woods and The Reduced Shakespeare Company Presents The Complete Works of Shakespeare, Abridged, which are theatrical productions. So yeah, concerts? Sure. Why not. And let’s face it, Weird Al (and Pink Floyd, for that matter) puts on a great show. There are costume changes and props! And it’s Weird Al.

Song-specific notes: The Night Santa Went Crazy – inspiration for Robot Santa in Futurama, y/y? Did you know that the lead singer of Devo has said he thinks Dare to Be Stupid is more Devo-esque than anything Devo ever did? I find that hilarious. The Saga Begins almost makes it worth watching the Star Wars prequels. I’d love to have heard full versions of classics like I Love Rocky Road and Another One Rides the Bus, but I understand that for the sake of a concert and an artist like Weird Al, playing all his awesome older stuff and his awesome newer stuff would make for a week long concert, so I’ll suck it up and enjoy the medly. After all, he does medlies so well, as evidenced by the ever-present polka medlies on every album and the beginning of this concert. While I normally do enjoy Weird Al’s style parodies (I honestly think Frank Zappa would have loved Genius in France, and I have genuinely mistaken Everything You Know is Wrong for an actual TMBG song), I find his NIN parody, Germs, kind of weak. Which is sad, because I loved NIN at the time that this concert took place and I’d have adored a really good style parody of them. It’s not bad, it’s just not as spot on as I’m used to the style parodies being. Eh. It’s one weak number in the middle of an truly fantastic concert.

I accurately nailed the year this took place. 1998 or 1999, I said to Andy. 1999. The reason I can do that is because of the pop culture references. Star Wars Episode I? Alanis Morisette? Those would be my college years. Early college years. So yeah, I can pinpoint that. Which is kind of neat. Not that I don’t enjoy his older or newer stuff. I still love his Michael Jackson parodies, and White and Nerdy is a work of genius. But the year this came from, and the years just before and after, those are special years in my heart. I admit, I owned Alanis Morrisette’s first album and listened to it repeatedly. I never owned any Spice Girls, but they were on the trailer reel at the Blockbuster I worked at over the summers, and yeah, they did catchy stuff. I don’t usually tune into current pop, but I know what’s out there. So there’s a boatload of nostalgia in here, listening to things like Bedrock Anthem and It’s All About the Pentiums. And obviously, with so many costume changes (seriously, he’s in something different for almost every song, as is his band), there was more to this concert than got recorded. I do wonder how that works live? Does he do so many costume changes? There is an art to a fast costume change. I’ve done enough theater to know there’s lots of tricks you can use. But this is above and beyond. So was this concert done with pauses, staged specifically for recording? Or is there filler in between numbers that require costume changes, with videos playing or something? I mean, they play the intro to the Fat video (not my favorite song in the world, but the intro is a great Michael Jackson parody and I’m going to have to watch the videos after this) before he comes out in a full fat suit, but that’s not the norm for any of the other numbers. I’d be curious to know. Anyone who’s seen him live, clue me in?

Regardless of how this specific concert was put on versus any other concerts he’s done (alas, none in the Boston area this year and they’re almost all sold out anyhow), it’s a fantastic show. The costume changes, the manic energy, the crowd interaction, the song selection, the Star Wars-themed encore, it’s all great. Weird Al managed to pack in classics and new stuff and stuff in between and polka and style parody and full parody and I wish I’d been there. I really really do. Some day.

June 1, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | 2 Comments

“Weird Al” Yankovic Live

June 1, 2010

“Weird Al” Yankovic Live

“Are you ready… to POLKA?!?”

We have several concert DVDs in our collection which we are counting as movies for the purposes of the project. Amongst them is this recording of a live concert that Weird Al did back in 1999. I think I already ranted about how much I love Weird Al back when we reviewed UHF. I was a quiet nerd with a love for the Dr. Demento Show back in my youth, and Al was of course prominently featured on the good doctor’s broadcasts, so Al was part of the soundtrack of my high-school years. Another big part of my self ostracization was my general disdain for popular music. A result of these two factors is that for a very large part of Al’s catalog I have never heard the original songs that his parodies are based on. Sure, I’ve probably heard the hook or parts of them on the radio as I’m tuning through to news radio or classic rock, but for the most part I haven’t heard a lot of the modern songs that he parodies. It can be embarrassing to be humming “I Got it on E-Bay” to myself in the supermarket and have passing people think I’m humming Backstreet Boys.

I love this concert. It’s not just that the music is fun and funny. Al is a great showman. There are a TON of costume changes (for the Devo-inspired “Dare to be Stupid” for example and of course the prosthetics for Fat which he does as the big finale – not counting the great encore. Almost every single song has its own outfit which evokes the feel of the music video.) He leaps and jumps around the stage. There’s a lot of choreography. And of course there’s accordion music.

The other thing you pick up watching him performing live is a lot of respect for his band. He’s been playing with Jon “Berbuda” Shwartz since the very start of his career, and Steve Jay and Jim West almost as long. (There’s a great story about when he was doing the “Beverly Hillbillies/Money For Nothing” mashup – Jim West had been practicing the guitar solo and could do it exactly as it was heard in the original song, but Mark Knopfler wanted to play in the parody song himself. Al maintains that Jim sounds more like Mark than Mark does.) You can’t help being impressed by the way these guys have mastered such a wide variety of styles. They can play polka, NiN, Madonna, and of course Michael Jackson – all perfectly.

A couple side notes: I realize that it’s been more than a decade since Al got lazik and lost the glasses and iconic mustache, but I’m still only just starting to get used to his “new” look. also: it’s a little bittersweet to see his parents introducing him at the start of the concert given that they and his little sister died of carbon monoxide poisoning a couple years ago. Such tragic things shouldn’t happen to the family of great comic entertainers. It’s just not fair.

But back to the lighthearted good times. It’s pretty impressive how much of his vast library Al squeezes into this concert. About halfway through he does a medley of about eight of his bigger hits – leading into “Eat It” which of course was his big breakthrough from quirky novelty act to MTV superstar. (I sometimes miss the days of music videos. Is there still a station that broadcasts those things, or are they a thing of the past? How will directors like Michael Gondry, Spike Jonze and David Fincher get their start now?)

I can’t help commenting now on how the Episode I parody song to the tune of American Pie is so much better than the movie itself. It’s almost worth the existence of that awful Star Wars prequels that this song exists. Says my wife “Weird Al captures the pathos that the movie should have had. It’s sad that a parody song is better at conveying emotion than the movie it’s based on.”

I just can’t stop grinning, humming along and bopping to all these catchy songs and spoofs. Thank you, Alfred Yankovic – you made my day better. As always. (I am disappointed to see that all of his concerts this summer are already sold out – and that he’s not coming to Boston.)

June 1, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment