I was hip to Weird Al from the very beginning. My collection started with his 1984 sophomore release “In 3-D” (I’d have been about 13 at the time), but soon included his 1983 self-titled debut as well as “Dare to be Stupid” (1985) and “Polka Party” (1986).
What I wasn’t always hip to back then were the songs Weird Al was parodying. I know I knew all the words to “Stop Draggin’ My Car Around” long before I heard “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around,” and I’d fully analyzed Luke’s plight in “Yoda” before I ever knew there was a gender-bending mystery to be considered in “Lola,” the song’s source material.
Older and more musically informed, I headed to Sunday (4/21) night’s Weird Al concert at the Paramount eager to hear old favorites as well as the more recent songs that I’ve casually kept up with over the years. Despite some technical difficulties that slowed the show, Weird Al—in fine voice, armed with an accordion, and fully immersed in the weirdness—didn’t disappoint.
He and his stellar band—charged with recreating the sound of songs of all different styles—opened with one of my favorite Weird Al signature moves: reimagining a medley of songs as polkas. I used to sing along as he tore through “Polkas on 45,” which featured numbers by Devo, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, the Talking Heads, and more. Sunday night, the mix included Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Lady Antebellum, and others.
He then launched into a mix of sharply written parodies (“TMZ” built from Taylor Swift’s “You Belong to Me” and “Smells Like Nirvana,” a satirical swipe at the band famous for “Smells Like Teen Spirit”) and funny originals (“You Make Me” and “Skipper Dan”). All of this music was supported by video projected above the performers. The screens were also used to play clips of Al doing mock interviews with celebrities and the like. These breaks (sometimes a bit overlong) allowed the star and his band to make many costume changes throughout the evening.
The video system failed about 30 minutes into the show, and Al and the band performed Elvis Costello’s “Radio Radio,” which is apparently their fallback move when they encounter technical difficulties.
Soon enough, things were back in working order and the parodies and humorous originals kept coming. Al has, perhaps, acquired a more satirical bent since the days when I was avidly listening. In addition to “Smells Like Nirvana,” he pillories Lady Gaga (while wearing a peacock suit) in “Perform This Way,” and “Party in the CIA,” a parody of Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the U.S.A.,” has a dark edge.
Late in the show, he did shortened versions of some of his early hits, including personal favorites of mine like “I Want a New Duck,” “The Theme for Rocky XIII (The Rye or the Kaiser),” “My Bologna,” and, of course, “Eat It.” He followed with full versions of more recent hits like “Amish Paradise” and “White and Nerdy.”
The encore featured his two forays into the Star Wars mythos—“The Saga Begins,” which relates the tale of Anakin Skywalker to the tune of “American Pie,” (“My, my this here Anakin guy, may be Vader someday later, now he’s just a small fry…”) and the aforementioned “Yoda” (“I met him in a swamp down in Dagobah where it bubbles all the time like a giant carbonated soda. S-o-d-a, soda”). The capacity crowd, filled with fans of all ages, was ecstatic. I’d say there’s nothing weird about that.