“Weird Al” Yankovic at the Apollo Theater, March 23, 2018.
Special guest: Emo Phillips
I’ve liked “Weird Al” Yankovic since I was a child. I’m not perhaps a diehard fan, especially compared with the people I sat next to on Friday night who sang along with every word. I’ve long appreciated that Weird Al is more than a novelty, but a talented musician, one who can effectively write and perform songs in multiple genres. I’d also heard that his live shows are terrific so I’d been wanting to attend. The Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour features shows in intimates settings without props and costumes and focusing on songs Weird Al wrote instead of parodies, so I felt this was the perfect opportunity to appreciate his work as a musician.
It also provided an opportunity to attend a show at the historic Apollo Theater in Harlem. And of course my first show at the Apollo is for the whitest (and nerdiest) performer ever, which I feel a bit guilty about, but I did appreciate the photos and plaques honoring the legendary jazz, soul, R&B, and funk performers who made the Apollo famous. The theater is gorgeous in the neo-classical style of early 20th century performance spaces. I had a great view of the stage from my front row balcony seat, albeit at 6’1″ I felt that the seat and foot space was designed for a significantly shorter person.
As promised, Weird Al and his four-man band performed Yankovic originals, including many style parodies which are a pastiche of a particular artist’s music. The highlights for me were “Mr. Popeil,” a tribute to “seen on TV” gadgets in the style of the B-52s, and “You Don’t Love Me Anymore,” a tender ballad about a young man who’s getting hints that his relationship is ending after his partners repeated attempts to kill him. I was also impressed by the light design that matched the music and the mood – blood red lighting for the slasher film promo “Nature Trail to Hell,” and swirling paisleys for the trippy Doors-inspired “Craigslist.”
Weird Al concluded the set with a medley of his most well-known song parody lyrics set to the tunes of entirely different songs (for example “Eat It” was sung to the Unplugged version of Eric Clapton’s “Layla”). It was all very meta but fun. For an encore, they played a rocking, straightforward cover of Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl.” Al introduced the song by saying that after decades in the music business he’d finally learned how to play guitar, and this would be his live performance debut on guitar (I don’t believe either of those things are true). The gag was that when it came time for the guitar solo, Al simply strummed a single, unfretted string. For the finale they played the beloved sing-a-long, “Yoda.”
It was a fun night, and I’d definitely see Weird Al again should I get the chance. I found the setlist from online sources. Note that the “drum solos” were short and deliberately unimpressive.
- Dare to Be Stupid (Grateful Dead version)
- Close but No Cigar
- Generic Blues
- Mr. Popeil
- Nature Trail to Hell
- Dog Eat Dog
- My Own Eyes
- Your Horoscope for Today
- I Remember Larry
- Drum Solo
- Jackson Park Express
- Young, Dumb & Ugly
- You Don’t Love Me Anymore
- Bass Solo (theme from “Barney Miller”)
- Drum Solo
- Eat It / I Lost on Jeopardy / Amish Paradise / Smells Like Nirvana / White & Nerdy / I Love Rocky Road / Like a Surgeon
20. Cinnamon Girl (Neil Young cover) (First time Weird Al played guitar on stage)
See also: Music Discovery: Weird Al