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Review: “Weird Al” Yankovic at Mountain Winery

In Music

If his show at Mountain Winery last night taught us anything, it’s that nobody has followed Weird Al’s career like Weird Al.

The guy must have a hell of a clipping service, because he seems to have collected every single pop culture reference to him ever made, for use in his “ALTV” between-song video montages. In some cases, he’s even incorporated them into the set, as when a Jeopardy question about “White and Nerdy” Segway immediately into Al busting out onto the stage in his trademark segue for the song.

What’s even crazier is that when I saw him a few years back in San Mateo, he used just as many pop-culture clips about himself, and yet most of them were entirely different than the ones he showed last night. Is the guy secretly on everybody’s mind all the time, or what?

Well, kind of. I mean, who doesn’t love Weird Al? And what person alive the last three decades doesn’t recognize him as a cultural touchpoint of some type? Whether your generation rocked to “My Bologna,” “Eat It,” “Fat,” “Amish Paradise” or “White and Nerdy,” you know Weird Al.

Seeing him live is like a two-hour study in why he’s remained a trending topic in the back of our minds for this long. First of all, his parodies are, for a huge chunk of the show, cut down into a medley blitz, featuring about the first two-three minutes of each. And that’s always the most clever part, isn’t it? I really only need the first verse and chorus from his Rocky-meets-deli “Eye of the Tiger” parody, “The Rye or the Kaiser.” Now, when I was 10, it might have been a different story, but now that’s perfect. Same with the Backstreet Boys parody “EBay,” his REM “Stand” take-off “Spam” and the “La Bamba” parody “Lasagna”—all of which he ran through quickly.

The true fan favorites (and most elaborate costume changes) got the full-song treatment, though: both MJ parodies, “Amish Paradise,” the stormtrooper-staffed encore for his Star Wars-themed parodies of “American Pie” (which I have to admit has grown on me over the years) and “Lola.” Plus, more recent songs like the Lady Gaga parody “Perform Like This,” the Taylor Swift re-imagining “TMZ” and his version of Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the U.S.A.,” “Party in the C.I.A.”

Second, it hit me last night how annoying it is when other artists who do musical comedy try to distance themselves from Weird Al by saying “Well, he’s a parodist,” as if this allowed them to look down on him in some way. Actually, he’s quite a brilliant comedian even when he’s not parodying songs, as his fake video interviews showed again last night. Editing himself into interviews of various celebrities made for some hilarious absurdist comedy.

Lastly, Weird Al, against all odds, still has the ability to surprise. He opened his set last night with Elvis Costello’s “Radio Radio.” Not a parody of it, mind you, but the actual song, done in all seriousness. Seriousness? Now, that’s just weird.

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