In the past 131 years old, musical luminaries like Duke Ellington, Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, the Beatles, Bob Dylan and Neil Young have all graced the Carnegie Hall stage. And on Saturday night, “Weird Al” Yankovic finally joined their ranks when his Ridiculously indulgent and ill-advised vanity visit landed in New York for its grand finale.
Just five minutes into the set, Yankovic took a break to soak in and even wipe away what felt like a real tear. “Let me just take a moment to enjoy it,” he told the crowd of 3,700 fans, including his wife Suzanne Yankovic, manager Jay Levey, Questlove and many followers who celebrated Halloween a few days later. early by disguising himself as Al. “It’s always been a dream of mine to one day come to Carnegie Hall and play a bunch of wildly unpopular songs.”
As the tour title and this commentary suggest, Yankovic hasn’t spent the past six months on the road releasing hit parodies like “Fat,” “Eat It,” and “Bedrock Anthem.” A little like its 2018 race of the same name, this is a strictly loyal tour as it focuses almost entirely on original tunes and style pastiches from its extensive catalog. These songs may be “unpopular” with mainstream audiences, but that crowd included a guy dressed in a perfect recreation of Al’s “Like a Surgeon” outfit, complete with a fake chainsaw. They were ready for anything he threw at them, the darker the better.
The show started with a set by Emo Phillips, who accompanied Yankovic throughout the tour. The 66-year-old comedian cracked deadpan jokes (“My girlfriend and I almost didn’t have the second date because on the first date, I didn’t open the car door for her. I just swam to the surface”) which absolutely killed. Someone at Netflix needs to give this guy a special. It is a treasure that deserves much more attention.
After a short break, Al’s band took the stage and kicked things off with the instrumental “Fun Zone” from UHF. Al received a standing ovation when he walked out and delivered ‘Lame Claim to Fame’ from his 2014 LP Compulsory entertainment. The set has bounced around over the past 40 years of Al’s history, dating all the way back to 1984’s “Nature Frail to Hell.” “Weird Al Yankovic in 3-D and touching on other Reagan-era marvels like “One More Minute,” “Velvet Elvis,” and “Good Old Days.”
Unlike his regular show, there were no costume changes or video screens. This put the spotlight squarely on his band, which includes bassist Steve Jay, drummer Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz, guitarist Jim West and keyboardist Rubén Valtierra. They are an incredibly versatile team capable of handling any style of popular music from the last half century. There were no full parody songs in the set aside from a radically rearranged lounge version of “Dare To Be Stupid”, but there were numerous “style parodies” where they sounded exactly like the Doors (“Craigslist” ), Talking Heads (“Dog Eat Chien”), and the White Stripes (“CNR”). And despite having played 129 consecutive concerts since April, Yankovic still had the vocal dexterity required to imitate Jim Morrison, David Byrne, Jack White and even Bob Dylan on the brilliant palindrome track “Bob”.
Al’s music has always been G-rated, but there are a handful of lines that don’t perform as well in 2022 as they did before. And when he hit the line in “Albuquerque” about the “big fat hermaphrodite with a Flock of Seagulls haircut,” he stopped the song to answer it. “I should probably stop and apologize for using the word hermaphrodite,” he said. “The language is fluid. I understand that’s an insult these days. This was obviously not my intention. It was the 90s. I had the impression at the time that it was more of a technical and medical term. Basically all I’m trying to say is that this particular character has both male and female reproductive organs as well as a Flock of Seagulls haircut.
The encore part of each show on the tour featured a cover performed with real sincerity. Past selections have been “Sunshine Of Your Love” by Cream, “Hello There” by Cheap Trick and “Rebel Yell” by Billy Idol. He went with “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” perhaps as a tribute to Carole King and Aretha Franklin since they both have Carnegie Hall in years gone by. The evening ended with an acoustic mix that included tiny tracks from “Amish Paradise”, “Smells Like Nirvana”, “White & Nerdy”, “Word Crimes” and “Yoda”. That last song has closed just about every Weird Al song over the past four decades, and the sight of a sold-out Carnegie Hall rising and happily singing the chorus — including a beaming Questlove — was absolutely glorious.
The glory will continue on November 4 when Bizarre: the story of Al Yankovic comes to Roku. It’s a walk hard-style parody of biopics, and truly one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in years. It should create a whole new generation of Weird Al fans. Hopefully he gives them a third incarnation of the ridiculously indulgent and ill-advised vanity tour at some point. This is the Weird Al experience in its purest form, and it deserves yet another reminder.
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