Review: ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic performs mostly original material for an intimate sold-out show at McDonald Theater
Pop music parody artist and goofball satirist “Weird Al” Yankovic performed a sold-out show Thursday night at the McDonald Theater in downtown Eugene. Billed as “The Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour,” Yankovic’s set featured a setlist consisting of mostly deep cuts and original material for an audience of hardcore fans.
The night began at 8 p.m. with an opening stand up set from the comedian Emo Philips. His sardonic and often surrealist comedy was delivered mostly in the form of one-liners and paraprosdokians, phrases with unexpected endings that call for a reinterpretation of the setup. Philips, with his trench coat and his bob haircut, remained in character for the entire set, speaking his jokes in a signature wispy and wandering voice.
Philips and Yankovic have a history together. In 1989, Phillips played the role of Joe Early in Yankovic’s cult comedy film “UHF.” On stage, Phillips joked about finally getting to do shows with his longtime friend. He claimed that back in the day “Weird Al” told him they would tour together when Donald Trump was elected president. “He’s a man of his word,” Philips said, gaining a laugh from the crowd.
Emo Philips performed for half an hour before a brief intermission as the stage was prepared for “Weird Al.” The crowd was mostly older, as many of Yankovic’s fans have been following him since his career began in the ‘80s. The Gen X-ers definitely outnumbered the college students and young children in the audience.
Yankovic and his band were met with a standing applause as they came out on stage. He started the set with the song “Good Old Days,” off the 1988 album “Even Worse.” Yankovic sang and played bongos, sitting in the middle of the stage behind his microphone.
The setup was much simpler than typical “Weird Al” shows, which usually consist of numerous costume changes, props and complex audio-visual components. It made for a very intimate experience. The stripped-down production came along with the tour’s special setlist, which highlighted Yankovic’s original material instead of his popular parody songs.
Yankovic referenced this during the first break in the set, but soon went into a joke about how the rest of the night would consist entirely of Grateful Dead covers. He introduced the next song as a rare bonus track on the Japanese import version the Dead album “American Beauty,” before going into the title track from his own 1985 album “Dare to Be Stupid.”
The song featured a swing beat and a classic rock-inspired arrangement instead of the tight Devo-style parody of the original album version. For an artist who typically has to restrain himself to follow the style of others, this was a refreshing change. The career-spanning setlist also included two of Yankovic’s humorous breakup songs, “One More Minute” and “You Don’t Love Me Anymore.”
Yankovic’s live band, whose members have remained consistent since the artist’s early career, was also tight and professional as usual. Keyboardist Rubén Valtierra played an excellent part on the narcissistic anthem “Why Does This Always Happen to Me?,” while guitarist Jim West took some solos on a few of the more rock-driven songs such as “Stuck In a Closet With Vanna White.”
Yankovic concluded his main set with a with an amazing medley of some of his more popular parodies, changing the arrangement of each song drastically. The instrumental of the Michael Jackson-inspired “Eat It” was replaced with a hilarious note-for-note recreation of the Eric Clapton song “Layla (Unplugged).”
The grungy “Smells Like Nirvana” was swapped out for a goofy, upbeat sound, and the hip-hop beats of “Amish Paradise” were substituted with chimes and a Spanish-style guitar. The medley concluded with “Like A Surgeon,” doing away with the Madonna instrumental in favor of an arena ballad approach. Yankovic grabbed the mic and stood up from his chair triumphantly, for the very first time in the set, during the song’s dramatic chorus.
The band came back for a two-song encore, beginning with an accordion cover of the Mason Williams composition “Classical Gas,” which Yankovic said was his favorite song when he was 10 years old and also the first single he ever bought. The band then finished off the night with the Star Wars-themed Don McLean parody “The Saga Begins.” Plenty of audience members sang along.
It may have been an unconventional show for the beloved artist, but that didn’t detract from any of the enjoyment. “The Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour” felt more like a much-deserved victory lap for an artist that has brought so many laughs over his nearly 40-year career.
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