When “Weird Al” Yankovic announced his Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity tour back in October, the pop culture deity felt it was necessary to tack on a disclaimer to the announcement, as to not mislead his audience, and let them know that it was not going to be the same “multimedia extravaganza” his herds of devoted fans have come to know and love over the last three decades. Yankovic himself even admitted that it was an experimental idea, and that it may not be for everyone, as he would be playing from setlists comprised almost completely of original material.
Fast-forward to this past Sunday (March 4), as Yankovic brought his experiment to The Wilbur Theatre in Boston, and was greeted with validation that his idea was a real hit amongst diehards and new generations of Al fans alike. It’s safe to say that, given the crowd’s raucous welcome, nobody was too worried about how the show would turn out; they just wanted to see Al.
On this tour, Yankovic and his trusty gang of bandmates have scaled back the theatrics and costume changes. But in terms of the energy exuded from behind the mic, it seemed like business as usual for the Lynwood, California native. Aside from the MTV Unplugged vibe on stage, with Yankovic and crew remaining sedentary on stools for the duration of the show, the level of energy that has made his live shows something of legend remained intact, as “The Weird One”, as well as comedian and longtime friend, Emo Philips tag-teamed to have the crowd singing along and gasping for breath right out of the gate. And Boston got the show twice, with us being the only stop on the tour to feature both a matinee and evening show, the former of which this writer attended.
Philips delivered a brilliant stand-up set, with the type of timid, yet flawless delivery that has made him such a well-respected example of comedic excellence within the comedy community, and served up quip after quip on a number of subjects. From musings on everything from his family to his dog, and all the way to how religion is similar to a civil war re-enactment (“It’s harmless until you start to believe that it’s real…”), the master of the paraprosdokian did more than enough to warm the crowd up for the main event, as made evident by the roaring ovation he received as he relinquished the stage.
While not a new thing, it’s worth noting that Yankovic followed his bandmates to the stage, where they were met with a pandemonium that is only fitting for the king of parody music. With waves of nostalgia crashing in a sea of Hawaiian shirts, Yankovic started in on the afternoon’s set with “Good Old Days,” “Bob,” and “Close But No Cigar,” before strapping on his trusty accordion to dig into “Mr. Popeil,” off of 1984’s In 3-D.
Obscurity held no weight for the crowd, as it seemed that the more obscure the selection, the more fans there were, singing along to every word. Drummer John “Bermuda” Schwartz and Guitarist Jim West took turns riffing short stings before the few songs that Yankovic was performing live for the first time ever, as the 58-year-old hopped around his nearly 40-year old catalog, and belting out 12 more of his original tracks, like “I’m So Sick of You,” “Truck Drivin’ Song,” and “You Don’t Love Me Anymore,” before Guitarist Jim West started in on a cover of Eric Clapton’s Unplugged version of “Layla,” with Yankovic revealing that it was actually just a play on the tune of “Eat It,” as the “junk food” portion of the show began, with a medley of Yankovic’s most enduring parodic hits, including “Smells Like Nirvana,” “Amish Paradise,” “I Love Rocky Road,” and “White & Nerdy.”
After a short break, and a foundation-shaking demand for an encore as the crowd begged for more, Al and co. returned to the stage to perform a cover of the Manfred Mann classic “Doo Wah Diddy,” before capping the first show off draped in green stage lights for an invigorating rendition of “Yoda.”
The days of him putting his leg behind his head may be a thing of the past, but “Weird Al” Yankovic rocked Boston, and he has proven once again that you can be a bonafide rockstar and still pay a mean accordion.