This is not a typical gig. “Weird Al” Yankovic sings most of his first song Tacky (a parody of Happy by Pharrell Williams) while only visible on a giant screen, as he makes his way through the backstage area at the O2 ABC. He makes his entrance into the hall only towards the end of the song.
Yankovic is an (unlikely) member of an exclusive club. Only three artists have had Billboard Top 40 singles in every decade since the 1980s. The other two are Madonna and Michael Jackson. His latest album Mandatory Fun, is also the first comedy album to top the charts since 1963.
The pattern of the first song is repeated throughout the concert, in that the audience are often watching archive video clips of Yankovic on screen, while he is offstage, changing costumes. The screen shows numerous pop culture references to Yankovic, as well as some very funny faux-interviews (most notably with Celine Dion and Eminem).
While what is shown on screen in these interludes is often funny, they do not, by definition, a live show make. The gig struggles to develop any real sense of momentum as a result, particularly in the first half. Ironically, the live show would probably play better on DVD, with the costume change intervals edited out.
However, having said that, many of the costumes allow the songs to have a real visual impact. For example, Fat would not carry the same weight, one might say, if it were being performed by a slim Yankovic.
Certainly, Yankovic can’t be faulted for his energy and commitment in performing the songs. He is a natural showman. If Alice Cooper did parody records, he’d (want to) be Yankovic.
An early highlight is Perform This Way, sending up Lady Gaga, with Yankovic sporting a jaunty purple octopus dress. Smells Like Nirvana and Canadian Idiot also play very well.
Less successful is an acoustic medley, featuring such ditties as Eat It and Like a Surgeon. For a parody song to work, it needs to be performed in the style of its source material.
Word Crimes is witty, literate and clever. The set draws to its close with Amish Paradise, which goes down an absolute storm with the audience.
For the encore, we are in Star Wars territory. Darth Vader (with light sabre) and Imperial Stormtroopers on stage during a gig? Gosh, with a large side order of golly! Obi-Wan Yankovic sings The Saga Begins and the crowd joins in, singing notes in…er…Alderaan places.