"Weird Al" Yankovic
"Weird Al" Yankovic | Credit: Lorne Thomson/Redferns

“Weird Al” Yankovic Review – Just Deserts for Daring to Be Stupid

“Weird Al” Yankovic played at Sydney’s Enmore Theatre on Wednesday, 15th March. David James Young reviews.

“Weird Al” Yankovic has an extremely dedicated fanbase. Sure, everyone knows his most popular songs – comedy re-writes of existing pop hits – but across a 35-plus year career, the deep cuts have also gained a cult following.

Most artists who embark on a world tour that’s the inverse of a greatest hits show would be staring down the barrel of career suicide. But for Yankovic, doing so has resulted in dozens of sold-out gigs, including two here in Sydney. The trip may be billed as a “self-indulgent vanity tour”, but the fervour of “Weird Al”‘s long-time fans is palpable.

“Weird Al” Yankovic” – ‘Lame Claim to Fame’

With his veteran backing band in tow, Yankovic takes us off the beaten track of his discography. The setlist ranges from 1985’s Dare to Be Stupid (the doo-wop pastiche ‘One More Minute’) up to 2014’s Mandatory Fun (the southern-fried name-dropping number ‘Lame Claim to Fame’).

There are none of the elaborate costumes or visuals that would normally augment one of Yankovic’s live shows, an intriguing approach for an artist who has relied heavily on aesthetics – and prosthetics – for the majority of their run. But when you have such image-rich songs as ‘The Night Santa Went Crazy’, ‘You Don’t Love Me Anymore’ and ‘Good Old Days’ in your arsenal, the music can speak for itself.

Freed from the bells and whistles, Yankovic is able to bring more spontaneity to the live renditions. Take The Doors homage ‘Craigslist’, which he tell us is a straight cover of “one of their more obscure numbers” before revealing its true nature. In the song’s breakdown, Yankovic takes an extended spoken-word detour à la Jim Morrison during live performances of ‘The End’. Instead of the killer awakening before dawn, however, he’s humming along to ‘Baby Shark’ and putting an empty carton of milk back in the fridge.

Yankovic tries a similar tack during an extended version of his 1999 opus ‘Albuquerque’, a song that is already over 11 minutes long. How do you extend the longest song in your back catalogue? Simple: you go into a bakery and ask for every type of berry donut under the sun – including, but not limited to, boysenberry, gooseberry, dingleberry, Halle Berry and Chuck Berry. While you’re at it, you may as well fake-out losing your train of thought and getting the band to start the entire song over, keeping the bit going for over a minute before resuming the final verse.

Lorne Thomson/Redferns

For the encore, we’re treated to a sprightly take on Paul Simon’s ‘You Can Call Me Al’. It’s a perfect song for Yankovic given its title, but also a perfect excuse for the band to show off. Bassist Steve Jay slaps out the palindromic solo twice just for the heck of it. Behind him, Rubén Valtierra nails the song’s distinctive synth stabs, a mere taste of the keyboardist’s virtuosic skill set.

But “Weird Al” and co. save the best for last, beginning with a jazzy medley of several hit parodies from across Yankovic’s career before transitioning into a Mighty Boosh knock-off that might be the most impressive technical display of the evening. With only their voices to guide them, the band zip through tribal chants, ‘Hooked On A Feeling’, ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ and ‘Walk The Dinosaur’. They remain in sync despite not making any eye contact with each other.

Comedic music isn’t rocket science, nor is it a monolith. But if tonight drives anything home, it’s that Yankovic has carved out such a niche that he remains the genre’s marquee name when most of his contemporaries have given up the ghost. In other words, he’s dared to be stupid for longer than most of this audience has been alive.

Further Reading

Watch Daniel Radcliffe as “Weird Al” In Trailer For ‘Weird: The Al Yankovic Story’

More Shows Added To “Weird Al” Yankovic’s 2023 Australian Tour

New ‘Africa’ Video Stars Weird Al Yankovic Parodying Weezer Parodying Themselves Parodying Toto

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