“Weird Al” Yankovic is a four-time GRAMMY Award-winning singer, parodist, and songwriter with six platinum comedy albums and more than 12 million records sold over his 40-year career. His most recent album, Mandatory Fun, was his first Billboard number-one selling album; and he brought those hits to the Durham Performing Arts Center on Friday night with “Weird Al” Yankovic: The Return of the Mandatory World Tour, the second leg of this album’s tour.
Weird Al brought his long-time studio and tour bandmates Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz (drummer since 1980), Steve Jay (bassist since 1982), Jim “Kimo” West (guitarist since 1982), and Rubén Valtierra (keyboardist since 1991). This outfit of oddballs adds much to Weird Al’s shows — changing costumes, wigs, and props — and true fans recognize them from countless music videos and live appearances.
Some special VIP packages were available for DPAC ticket buyers. The “Mandatory Czar Experience” included a preshow party, meet-and-greet with Al, and assorted S-W-A-G. But worry not, those of us without the VIP packages certainly got our money’s worth from this spectacular concert.
The majority of Weird Al’s songs were older favorites, with singles from Mandatory Fun sprinkled in for good measure. He changed costumes frequently — perhaps, a few too many times — but video montages were played that highlighted his various pop culture appearances (such as voicing himself on The Simpsons, humorous YouTube videos, and an appearance in The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear).
Al started the show in a very “weird” way indeed: beginning his hit single, “Tacky” (parodying Pharrell Williams’ “Happy”), in his dressing room in a far off corner of DPAC. The audience watched, on a projection screen, a live feed of his journey through DPAC, singing his way into the auditorium. He burst into the back of the room and sang and strutted his way down the aisle and onto the stage, hitting his center mark just as the song finished and a crowd of nerds, geeks, and dweebs — including yours truly — lost their minds. (No n00bs were permitted entry.)
Each song was given full production-number treatment — “Weird Al” Yankovic’s concerts are highly theatrical. Projections of corresponding music videos or enhancing graphics were projected throughout, and stunning rock-concert lighting — some of the best that I’ve ever seen — was programmed to highlight the unique tone of each song. This show has played amphitheater settings; but I think DPAC is the perfect venue, with better control over lighting, sound, and projection elements.
Many of the stand-by songs, with fun costumes, were featured: a fat suit with facial prosthetics for “Fat,” a beard and hat for “Amish Paradise,” a blonde wig and grungy jeans for “Smells Like Nirvana,” and full yellow plastic futuristic HAZMAT gear for “Dare to Be Stupid,”.
One of the evening’s most interesting highlights was an unplugged montage of songs typically done with enormous production values. With candles behind them, “Weird Al” Yankovic and the band sat in a semicircle and jammed on “Eat It,” “I Lost on Jeopardy,” “I Love Rocky Road,” and “Like a Surgeon.” This was an unexpected stylistic twist and added terrific variety to the event.
Weird Al still possesses the amazing vocal range and power that he has always had. If anything, his vocal dexterity has improved over the last 40 years. He’s also a terrific physical comic and still leaps, kicks, and tumbles like a kid during his shows. He continues to play in the audience, as he is known to do; and the adoration from his fans is palpable. Everybody wants to be BFFs with Al.
The evening, which sadly had to conclude, was brought to a rousing finish as Al sang “The Saga Begins,” which tells the tale of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Al was joined onstage by an impressive lineup of Star Wars characters, including paratroopers, jawas, and Darth Vader himself, who waved his red lightsaber high like a cigarette lighter. Finally, Al and his accordion delivered die hard fan-favorite “Yoda,” before blasting off in the spaceship he undoubtedly had parked outside.
Luckily for residents of Western North Carolina, Weird Al landed his spaceship in Asheville on Saturday night for what I’m sure was another rocking, rollicking good time. If Weird Al comes anywhere near you, I strongly recommend that you go. I especially recommend the event for middle school-aged kids. That is, if you want to win big as a parent.
- “Tacky” — a parody of Pharrell Williams’ “Happy”
- “Lame Claim to Fame” — a style parody of Southern Culture on the Skids
- “Now That’s What I Call Polka” — a polka-style pop cover medley
- “Perform This Way” — a parody of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”
- “Dare to Be Stupid” — a style parody of Devo
- “Fat” — a parody of Michael Jackson’s “Bad”
- “First World Problems” — a style parody of The Pixies
- “Foil” — a parody of Lorde’s “Royals”
- “Epic Rap Battles of History: Sir Isaac Newton vs. Bill Nye<a?” –=”” a=”” youtube=”” video<=”” font=””>
- “Smells Like Nirvana” — a parody of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
- A medley of “Party in the CIA,” “It’s All About the Pentiums,” “Handy,” “Bedrock Anthem,” “Another One Rides the Bus,” “Ode to a Superhero,” “Gump,” “Inactive,” and “eBay.”
- “Canadian Idiot” — a parody of Green Day’s “American Idiot”
- “Wanna B Ur Lovr” — a style parody of Prince
- An unplugged medley of “Eat It,” “I Lost on Jeopardy,” “I Love Rocky Road,” and “Like a Surgeon”
- “White & Nerdy” — a parody of Chamillionaire’s “Ridin’”
- “Word Crimes” — a parody of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”
- “Amish Paradise” — a parody of Coolio’s “Gangster’s Paradise”
- For encores, Weird Al and cohorts performed “We All Have Cell Phones,” “The Saga Begins,” and “Yoda”
The Mandatory Fun tour is in the PG zone for rude humor.
SECOND OPINION: Sept. 7th Raleigh, NC WRAL.com interview with “Weird Al” Yankovic, conducted by Isaac Weeks of “Raleigh & Co.”: http://www.wral.com/weird-al-talks-career-before-durham-show/15994616/.
“WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC: THE RETURN OF THE MANDATORY WORLD TOUR (Durham Performing Arts Center, Sept. 9 in Durham).
DPAC NEWS RELEASE: http://www.dpacnc.com/news/detail/weird-al-yankovic-coming-to-dpac-friday-september-9.
“Weird Al” Yankovic (nee, Alfred Matthew Yankovic, musical parodist extraordinaire): http://weirdal.com/ (official website), https://www.facebook.com/weirdal (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/alyankovic (Twitter page), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0946148/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%22Weird_Al%22_Yankovic (Wikipedia), and https://www.youtube.com/user/alyankovic (YouTube).
[RUN HAS CONCLUDED.]
Dustin K. Britt is a Triangle native, holds a master’s degree in special education from East Carolina University, and teaches locally. He can be spotted all over the Triangle area either painting scenery or chewing on it. He has received local theater award nominations for doing both. He is a devoted cinephile and author of Hold the Popcorn, a movie blog on Facebook. Click here to read his reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.