A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

“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