Show Review: Weird Al Yankovic at The Fox Theater – Oakland, 11/6/11

by Dakin Hardwick on November 7, 2011

Hoping hard that George Lucas doesn't see this.

The longevity of Weird Al Yankovic’s career will always boggle my mind. He’s been recording for over 30 years, and has consistently remained one of the most easily recognizable faces in America for most of that time. He is currently touring to support his 13th studio album, Alpocalypse, and its companion DVD, The Alpocalypse Tour, and this tour included a very, very rare Bay Area tour stop. (This is only his second time playing here since 1997!)

One of the benefits to having a near unlimited body of work, most of it hits, is that you don’t need to bother with an opening act. The scheduled start time was 7:30, and Yankovic waited just long enough to make sure most everybody was seated, and started promptly at 7:45. He came out in his trademark Hawaiian shirt, long curly hair, and accordion in hand, and he jumped straight into “Polka Face,” the most recent in a series of polka medleys that he does on pretty much every record. His absolutely amazing band nailed this medley of polkafied versions of top 40 hits from the last 2 years, covering Lady Gaga, Lady Antebellum, Kid Cudi, Taio Cruz, and, most cleverly, mashing up “The Tick Tock Polka” by Frank Yankovic (no relation) with “Tik Tok” by Ke$ha. Because not only is he weird, he’s also kind of a nerd.

He then nodded to his most recent release by doing the Taylor Swift parody “TMZ,” but really got the crowd going with one of his finest original songs, 1988′s “You Make Me.” This track, kind of a Zappa meets Devo piece, generated a lot of “Holy Crap! He’s Doing That One!” thoughts from a lot of classic fans. Or, well, at least me and this one woman in a yellow shirt directly in front of me that seemed to know all the words to every song he played.

After the third song, we were treated to the first of many classic Al TV segments. To the unfamiliar, Al TV was something MTV used to do — devote an extended period of time all to Weird Al, so he can do, well, whatever he pleases. One of the most  consistently entertaining bits he does is taking interview footage from performers, only editing in his own questions to humorous effect. The first one of the evening was his interview with Eminem. These clips, although very entertaining, are really filler while Yankovic and band switch costumes. This led is to an amazingly accurate rendition of “Smells Like Nirvana.” They got everything right: Yankovic, in his fake blonde Kurt Cobain wig, “played” an unplugged guitar, left handed, just like Cobain. Bassist Steve Jay (member of Weird Al’s band since 1982) slung his bass so low that he had put he had to play the fret board overhand. They even had dancing cheerleaders, and did the water gargle “solo” live. It was amazing.

The set, which lasted more than two hours, did an excellent job of covering material from throughout his long career. His parodies were always spot on, and when he played originals that were inspired by other artists, he duplicated all of those mannerisms precisely. He got Jack White’s cockiness nearly perfect for the hysterical White Stripes’ inspired “CNR,” a brilliant song creating a mythology around Charles Nelson Riley that rivals that of the epic Chuck Norris Facts.  He managed to pull of Lady Gaga’s cold, emotionless vibe in “Perform This Way,” and even conjured up the spirit of Jim Morrison on “Craigslist.” (Another thing that this song got right? Bass was played on the organ. Nobody remembers that about The Doors!)

Is that Lady Gaga?

Every move was a winner. He crawled around the crowd, playing a lounge lizard seducer for “Wanna Be Ur Lovr.” And, in an attempt to squeeze as many songs from all portions of his career as possible, he pulled out a medley that my companion at the show and I could only come to consider the “obsessive medley.”

Here’s what he pulled out for that song:

Money For Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies/Whatever You Like / Another Tattoo / eBay / I Want A New Duck / Theme From Rocky XIII (Rye or the Kaiser) / Spam / My Bologna / Ode To A Superhero / Lasagna / Eat It
Whoa! is the only word I could use to describe that.

The costumes were all a treat. Julie Rae Engelsman, another long time Yankovic crew member, really outdid herself, getting the perfect look for every bit, but the real home run was “Fat.” Yankovic closed out the main set with the most epic fat suit ever made. He looked the part, but it also was designed to give him some freedom of movement, while still having the “difficulties” one would have being as “fat” as the character from the song.

Maybe he just ate a lot really fast...

The show ended with an encore of two Star Wars parodies, handled quite well, just like a veteran performer like Al would do. He brought out stormtroopers and Darth Vader, and sang “The Saga Begins” and “Yoda.” He then closed the set with a full band acapella chanting that I cannot describe. It was a “you had to be there” moment of pure talent, and his whole band participated, which, in addition to bassist Jay, included his drummer since 1979, John “Bermuda” Schwartz, guitarist since 1982, Jim West, and the new guy, keyboardist Ruben Valtierra, who joined the band a mere 20 years ago.

It was a spectacular show, one of the finest productions I have ever seen at The Fox.

Setlist:

Polka Face!
TMZ
You Make Me
Smells Like Nirvana
Skipper Dan
Party In The CIA
CNR
Canadian Idiot
Wanna B Ur Lovr
“Obsessive Medley”: Money For Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies / Whatever You Like / Another Tattoo / eBay / I Want A New Duck / Theme From Rocky XIII / Spam / My Bologna / Ode To A Superhero / Lasagna / Eat It
Amish Paradise
Craigslist
Perform This Way
White & Nerdy
Fat

Encore:
Keyboard Solo
The Saga Begins
Imperial March / Addams Family Theme
Yoda / Yoda Chant

All Photos by Alan Ralph. See his full portfolio here. One thing that Alan and Weird Al both have in common? Prince has sent cease & desist letters to both. Awesome, right?

 

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