Getting Weird With “Weird Al” Yankovic

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Though this site usually focuses on the bizarre, I thought getting weird would also fit in nicely…as in “Weird Al” Yankovic. I have been a fan of Al’s since I first heard his parody of The Kinks “Lola” entitled “Yoda” on the Dr. Demento show in the mid-80’s. Fourteen albums later and I am still a fan, probably appreciating him now more than ever. As I got older, I found myself respecting what Al does more, not only with his clever writing but with his ability to imitate pretty much any musical style.

Seeing “Weird Al” this year on his Strings Attached tour came as a complete surprise. Luckily I have an amazing girlfriend who was not only fully aware of my love of “Weird Al,” but being a musician herself she had also started to really appreciate how talented he is. For my 52nd birthday she decided to do something awesome. Though my actual birthday was in May (for which she threw a great party with my family and closest friends) she also made plans to take me away from July 18 through the 20th. She would not reveal where we were going or what we were going to be doing, but every three days she would give me a visual clue, a numbered image on a small piece of paper. All in all there were 20 clues and for the life of me I could not figure out the connection. The clues included everything from ghosts to insects to Marvel characters. Could we be going on a haunted tour near an entomological zoo followed by a shopping spree at a comic book store? Nope.

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On the morning of July 18 we left our home in Richmond, Rhode Island to parts unknown. During the first part of the drive she handed me a sheet of paper and a pen and said to put all of the clues in numerical order and then write down the name of each clue. As I started to do this a pattern started to emerge, one I had not even thought of. The first letter of each clue spelled out a word. In the end the message read “Get ready to see Weird Al!” I couldn’t believe it. She never ceases to amaze me with how clever she is and the amount of effort she makes to organize and put things together, making every moment with her so much more special.

Gilford, New Hampshire was the location of this incredible show, at the Bank of NH Pavilion. Though I had seen “Weird Al” in the 90’s, seeing him on his Strings Attached tour with a full orchestra was definitely something I was glad to be a part of.

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The weather was perfect for an open air show. If you have never been to the Bank of NH Pavilion it’s really a great place to see a concert. Outside of the actual concert area are all kinds of vendors, selling food, alcohol and merchandise. This was a great place to just relax before the show started. No opening acts were announced so we had no idea if Al would start right at 7 or if there would be a surprise band or stand up comedian.

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The show started at just around 7:30 featuring the forty-one piece orchestra doing 3 classic movie theme songs (“The Raiders March,” “Mission: Impossible” and “Theme from Superman“). We were unsure if this was considered the opening or whether it was just an introduction to Al coming out. Thankfully this was the opening act as both of us really had to use the bathroom before the show started in our effort to stay “hydrated.”

Once the show started, 20 minutes later, it was a fast-paced, energy-filled show. You would never know that Al is 60 years old considering how active he is on stage, still being able to do the high kicks he is known for.

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The first three songs (“I Lost on Jeopardy,” “I Love Rocky Road” and “Like A Surgeon“) were all sung in a different style than originally released. My girlfriend described it as being jazz-like. Initially this threw me a bit but as I got accustomed to it, I enjoyed them very much. I was wondering if the whole show would be this way. Next up was my favorite Al original, “The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota.” To finally hear this live made my night and was one of many highlights of the evening. The next song was a highlight for both of us, “Word Crimes.” No song in Al’s library showcases his talent more than this song and it needs to be listened to over and over again to fully appreciate how brilliant “Weird Al” truly is.

Next up was another original, his ballad “One More Minute .” The audience interaction he does here is priceless as well as hilarious. His timing on this song is perfect as he “flirts” with the guests. Next up was “Jurassic Park,” “Don’t Download This Song” and “Weasel Stomping Day,” made all the more funny with the backup orchestra.

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Three more songs (“Tacky,” “Harvey the Wonder Hampster” and “Jackson Park Express“) were next leading into the intermissions and costume changes. The intermissions featured classic Al footage from his MTV and “The Weird Al Show” days as well as various television appearances over the years. These were all carefully chosen to perfectly introduce the next song. I personally love these intermissions and wish they were a part of the live concerts he has released on DVD and Blu-ray.

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No Al concert would be complete without “Smells Like Nirvana,” a favorite of both my girlfriend and I. This song really shows his talent as a performer and lyricist. Next up was the Devo tribute “Dare to Be Stupid” followed by another favorite, “White & Nerdy,” complete with Al riding a Segway on stage. The pre-finale show ended with the classic “Amish Paradise.”

 

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In typical “Weird Al” Yankovic concert fashion, the show ended with “The Saga Begins” and “Yoda.” The big difference this time was that the orchestra introduced the finale by playing “Star Wars: Main Title” by John Williams. As always this was a great way to end a night that went by way-too-fast.

When you spend an entire concert laughing, singing and smiling then you know it was a great show. Though I question why huge hits such as “Eat It” and “Fat” were not included, the entire show still managed to blow me away, making me want to see him again as soon as possible. That is the sign of a true artist when so many years later he can still have such an emotional impact on someone. “Weird Al” is a true entertainer in every sense of the word and needs to be seen live to fully appreciate everything he has to offer.

~David Albaugh

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