Saturday’s seated show at 20 Monroe Live unfurled without the usual stage props, video screens or costumes but still displayed the personality that’s uniquely Weird Al Yankovic. Review, photos.
With or without his parody music, “Weird Al” Yankovic can still be as weird as he wants.
Yankovic’s famous parodies aren’t the focus of “The Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour.” Neither are the wacky costumes and large-scale production which have defined previous tours.
That’s the conceit of Yankovic’s four-month long experiment: No hits and only deep cuts.
While Yankovic’s last tour brought him to venues as massive as the Hollywood Bowl, the multi platinum-selling comedian is performing in smaller venues and theaters this year, including Saturday’s stop at 20 Monroe Live in Grand Rapids.
The sold-out show was billed as a tentpole event for Gilda’s Laughfest, the city-wide comedy festival which also boasts a lineup including Trevor Noah, John Mulaney, Maria Bamford and others.
And opening the show for Yankovic was another comedy legend with a knack for the absurd: Emo Philips.
The no-frills, seated performance allowed Yankovic the opportunity delve into uncharted musical territory wherein he and his longtime bandmates had prepared more than four hours of non-parody material to draw from, including long-forgotten album tracks, covers and medlies. No two shows on the tour will feature the same set list.
LOTS OF SOLOS, TIGHT HARMONIES AND, YES, COMEDY
Performing music at random from a 14-album discography seemed like something of a tightrope walk, but Yankovic reveled in the uncertainty – and occasional misstep – during the performance.
The crowd gave the energy right back, cheering wildly for deep cuts such as “Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota” and “Generic Blues Song.”
I had the pleasure of seeing Yankovic in concert back in 2007, when his “Ridin’” parody, “White and Nerdy,” had become a viral internet sensation. (It also held the rare distinction of being my featured Myspace profile song for months.)
While it was a delight to see that wildly goofy production live, Yankovic’s Grand Rapids show was vastly more interesting. Free from the constraint of costumes and characters, Yankovic and company had a real opportunity to show of their musical abilities, including numerous solos, tight harmonies and uber-quick genre hopping.
And while Yankovic’s occasional use of the accordion has traditionally been for comedic effect, he played masterfully during almost every song. There’s no denying that Yankovic, 58, still has serious chops as both a vocalist and instrumentalist.
But toward the end of the show, Yankovic couldn’t resist making the show a little funnier. Fans jumped up dancing for a rendition of “Eat It” set to the music of Eric Clapton’s “Layla.” That odd concoction crescendoed into a medley of oddly orchestrated Weird Al hits including “Smells Like Nirvana,” “Amish Paradise” and “Like a Surgeon.”
Yankovic seemed as surprised as anyone that such an unusual show could go over so well, and after the encore sing-along of his “American Pie” Star Wars parody, “The Saga Begins,” gave a very non-weird and sincere thanks.
Sounds like a successful experiment.
Yankovic’s “Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour” continues tonight at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor.
PHOTO GALLERY: Weird Al Yankovic at 20 Monroe Live
Yankovic also made news last week by releasing a polka medley of “Hamilton” music
VIDEO: Weird Al Yankovic, “The Hamilton Polka”
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