Al Yankovic Keeps Austin Weird

Pop culture absurdity, rated PG

Projected on the big-screen backdrop via closed-circuit video, dancing gleefully through the Moody Theater’s backstage corridors while singing “Tacky” – a parody of Pharrell’s mega-hit “Happy” – Weird Al Yankovic made his grand entrance Thursday night by prancing through the venue’s main entrance, into the crowd, and finally onstage.

Photo by David Brendan Hall

Ninety seconds in, the sold-out Austin stop of the Mandatory World Tour received its first standing ovation. A new gag for the preeminent pop parodist of the last century and this one as well, it delivered. Delighted was a house comprised primarily of fans in Hawaiian shirts and tinfoil hats, plus a notable contingent tattooed dads with kiddos in tow.

The affable master of PG humor soon hoisted his accordion in the air with rock star charisma to execute his ever-evolving “Now That’s What I Call Polka” medley, offering oom-pah versions of “Wrecking Ball,” “Pumped Up Kicks,” “Call Me Maybe,” and “Thrift Shop.” On the latter, he subbed out an expletive for the hook, “This is super awesome!” That long-held proprietary formula, delivering overexposed pop songs in the irritating Germanic style, somehow continues to work.

Photo by David Brendan Hall

While Yankovic and his fourpiece band changed outfits, which occurred roughly 17 times during the two-hour set, channel-surfing video interludes of televised Weird Al references and fake interviews kept the audience in stitches. When the intro to his iconic “Fat” video rolled, the audience screamed along to the Fat Boys’ taunts “Yo Ding Dong man. Ding Dong, Ding Dong, yo!” The singer then emerged in a fat suit, complete with jowls, to execute his early favorite.

Likewise, classics such as the Devo-ish “Dare to be Stupid” and “Smells Like Nirvana,” the latter with its gargling water guitar solo, earned huge applause as time-tested live set bedrocks. New material on parade included material from 2014’s chart-topping Mandatory Fun album, some of which may survive into the Weird Al live Rolodex, while others will fade quickly from performances after this tour. “Foil,” a clever spoof of Lord’s “Royals,” in which Yankovic first trumpets the practicality of aluminum foil for culinary preservation then left-turns into the product’s usefulness as headgear to protect against aliens, could become a staple.

Photo by David Brendan Hall

Photo by David Brendan Hall

Photo by David Brendan Hall

His grammar Nazi take on “Blurred Lines” (“Word Crimes”) probably won’t enjoy the same fate. Rock bottom hit with the woeful “Handy,” ribbing Iggy Azalea with Yankovic simply donning a tool belt to boast about his handyman skills. Only at these moments did the potentially pathetic nature of parody sweep over the audience.

Despite the rare miss, the singer’s maintained a gold standard for a remarkable 35 years. That’s better than most popular artists that play it straight, because his live show remains a satisfying experience for die-hards and casual fans alike. Those who scalped $100 tickets on the street outside got their money's worth.

After closing with the Coolio-vexing “Amish Paradise,” the theatrical troupe was escorted back onstage by storm troopers and Darth Vader for a 20-minute Star Wars encore. During a quiet moment in “The Saga Begins,” sung to the tune of “American Pie,” someone in the audience yelled “Fuck you Vader!” Yankovic paused and raised his eyebrows in concern, as if to say, “Hey man, there are kids here.”

Photo by David Brendan Hall

Truth is, we all feel like kids when we’re in the presence of Weird Al Yankovic.

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Weird Al Yankovic, Pharrell, Lorde, Devo, Nirvana, Michael Jackson, Fat Boys, Iggy Azalea, Coolio, Star Wars

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