‘Weird Al’ vanity tour a smash
Focuses on his own music, puts parodies on hold
By Steve Metsch
About two-thirds of the way through his longest song, “Weird Al” Yankovic stopped the music and said he forgot where he was.
He decided, much to the amusement of the faithful gathered in Uihlein Hall in Milwaukee’s Marcus Center on May 24, to re-start the song.
So, Yankovic and his longtime bandmates did just that, playing “Albuquerque” from the beginning as the crowd roared with laughter. A few minutes later he said he suddenly remembered where they had left off they finished. Yes, he still hates sauerkraut.
The band needed about 20 minutes to finish a song that clocks in at 11:23 on his 1999 album “Running With Scissors.” En route, he rattled off about 40 types of doughnuts, from blueberry to gooseberry to Hale Berry to Chuck Berry.
The casual fan may wonder why. Not the fans of “Weird Al.”
They reveled in the weirdness that was at a high level during one of the 133 concerts on “The Unfortunate Return of the Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour.”
It’s an encore of his 2018 “vanity tour.” Each featured songs written by Yankovic and not the parodies of hit songs he has recorded the past 40-some years. There were no outrageous costumes or videos, unlike his 2016 stop in Aurora.
Yankovic, 62, was in fine voice and good spirits, which is something when you think a week earlier he had tested positive for COVID-19.
As luck would have it, guitarist Jim West now has COVID-19, but he played from backstage, and spoke with Yankovic a few times during the show.
It somehow worked, his being backstage, perhaps because the band is so tight after being together so long.
The band played just under two hours and stayed true to the script until the encore. More on that later.
After opening with the instrumental “Fun Zone,” they played “Lame to Claim to Fame” from the their most recent studio album, “Mandatory Fun,” which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts in 2014.
Yeah, being hilarious does have its perks
Yankovic channeled his inner David Byrne for “Dog Eat Dog” and paid tribute to another front man with “My Baby’s In Love with Eddie Vedder.”
The only misstep – given the news from Texas that day about a mass shooting at a school – was when they dusted off the seldom-heard “Nature Trail to Hell” from his second studio album released in 1984.
He called it “a horror movie theme song.”
But lyrics about “a homicidal maniac who finds a Cub Scout troop and he hacks up two or three in every scene,” felt inappropriate after the Texas tragedy. The R.E.M.-flavored “Frank’s 2,000” TV” might’ve been a better choice.
Yankovic next lightened the mood with the theme song from his 1989 movie “UHF.” Want to laugh a lot Rent that movie. You won’t be disappointed.
Having played so many songs in more than 1,000 concerts, it must be refreshing for the band to change things up a bit.
For example, they gave “Dare to be Stupid” – the Devo-inspired song about letting bed bugs bite and putting all your eggs in one basket – a slow, mellow feel. It worked.
The irony of “Close But No Cigar,” the hilarious lyrics on “CNR,” the ‘50s doo-wop sounds of the bitter “One More Minute” and an extended rap in “Craigslist” found the band at the top of its game.
The crowd, which ranged in age from about 8 to 80, ate it up.
We did meet one fan in the parking ramp elevator afterwards who seemed unhappy. I guess he wanted costumes, videos and props. Hey, Yankovic was upfront about those not being on this tour.
For the encore, after closing with “Albuquerque,” the band played a spot-on cover of the Violent Femmes” “Blister in the Sun.” No parody lyrics. No laughs, Just good music.
Then Yankovic did a medley of five of his most popular covers: “Amish Paradise, ”Smells Like Nirvana,” “White & Nerdy,” “Word Crimes” and “Yoda.” The crowd sang along.
After seeing Yankovic and his band for the fourth time in seven years, I again wonder why they are not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
They are able to morph into any musical style. He writes smart and hilarious lyrics. He’s sold more than 12 million albums, won five Grammy Awards, parodied more than 150 songs, and is fun in concert.
He’s had his own TV show, has a funny series on-line where he “interviews” celebrities, a graphic novel is coming out and there’s a movie due soon starring Daniel Radcliffe as Yankovic.
Plus, he’s done more to sell records of other artists than most radio stations or MTV.
Why did we drive up to Milwaukee for a Tuesday night show? We have a conflict when the tour hits the Chicago Symphony Center on July 15 and 16.
My son Craig, 25, and I agreed that the scaled-down tour is worth seeing as we played “Weird Al” CDs on the drive home.
That afternoon, we half expected to see Yankovic or his likeness at the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum in Milwaukee.
Hmm. Bobbleheads. Milwaukee. “Weird Al.” Why do I think there’s a song waiting to be written?
Comedian Emo Phillips opened and had the audience laughing often during his clever, off-beat 30-minute performance.