"Weird Al" Yankovic - Live! The Alpocalypse Tour [DVD]
Record Label: Comedy Central
Release Date: October 4, 2011
Frankly, it's astonishing that Alfred "Weird Al" Yankovic has managed to stay relevant for some thirty years. I don't mean to belittle his abilities, but as an accordionist with a knack for polka, the odds weren't exactly in his favor. However, Yankovic went above and beyond making a career out of his parodies of popular hits. He has become a household name with a laundry list of accolades, including releasing thirteen studio albums, selling over 12 million units, going platinum multiple times and winning three Grammy awards.
What's the secret to his staggering success? Yankovic does spot-on imitations coupled with witty, satirical lyrics set to popular tunes. One would think that the novelty would wear itself thin over time, but he keeps it fresh by evolving with the ever-changing pop music landscape, thereby guaranteeing himself more longevity than many of the artists that he spoofs. As a result, his appeal spans generations.
So Weird Al is good at what he does, his albums sell like hotcakes and his music videos are a riot, but how does all of that translate into a live setting? As a longtime fan (as wide-eyed child, this reviewer once contemplated a career as "Weird Al" DiVincenzo), that is something about which I have always been curious. As his new DVD, "Weird Al" Yankovic Live! - The Alpocalypse Tour, proves, Al does not disappoint.
Although he has released a number of music video collections throughout his career, this marks only the second Weird Al live concert video. (The first was 1999's "Weird Al" Yankovic Live!.) Filmed at Massey Hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on July 16, the DVD captures a lengthy performance in support of his latest album, Alpocalypse.
Yankovic wastes little time, immediately opening with "Polka Face," his latest trademark medley of covers. The original hits translate surprisingly well into their polka counterparts, particularly the catchy hooks in Owl City's "Fireflies," Iyaz's "Reply" and Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl." The live footage is mixed with occasional glimpses at the videos that play in the background of the stage. Yankovic has a band - guitarist Jim West, bassist Steve Jay, drummer Jon Schwartz and keyboardist Ruben Valtierra - backing him for a full live sound.
As an artist with so many hits who is also touring in support of a new album, Yankovic can only fit so much material in a single set. While there are some questionable choices, he does his best to include most of the fan favorites. To compensate, he plays an eleven-song a medley featuring such favorites as "eBay," "My Bologna" and finally "Eat It." Al's set also includes some of his original numbers, including "Wanna B Ur Lovr," during which he goes into crowd and seduces a few lucky female audience members.
Yankovic's vocal performance is the most impressive aspect of the show. He does all kinds of imitations while playing his signature accordion and often wearing a lavish costume, all without missing a single note. Yes, when not sporting a Hawaiian shirt, Al brings all of your favorite music videos to life on the road. He sings "Perform This Way" in a giant peacock suit that would make Lady Gaga herself jealous while his band members dress in equally ridiculous garb. A portion of "White and Nerdy" is performed while cruising around the stage on a Segway personal transporter. He makes a grand entrance donning a fat suit and the make up to match for his hit Michael Jackson spoof, "Fat."
I was expected "Fat" to be the finale, but Al comes back for a Star Wars-themed encore. He sings his "American Pie" parody, "The Saga Begins," dressed as Obi-Wan Kenobi while a dozen or so Storm Troopers along with Darth Vader and R2D2 join him on stage. He then recounts the plot of The Empire Strikes Back in "Yoda." The performance includes a break of mostly gibberish chanting before concluding the song and the show as a blast of confetti pours over the audience.
Yankovic's stage presence is proof that he could have been a bona fide rock star had he picked up the guitar as a child rather than the accordion. Seeing his impersonations of Nirvana's Kurt Cobain ("Smells Like Nirvana") and Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong ("Canadian Idiot"), in particular, show that he has frontman charisma in addition to mastering the funnyman schtick. It's actually strange seeing the audience seated in the theater while he rocks out so hard on stage.
The concert runs for about an hour and a half, but that's with all of the costume changes edited out. There is also almost no speaking between the songs. Curiously, there are three songs ("Frank's 2,000 Inch TV," "You Don't Love Me Anymore," "You Make Me") from the performance that are not in the feature but rather appear as bonus material on the DVD. It would have been better to see the concert presented in full with these tracks edited in sequence, but at least they're included. Other bonus features include the music videos for "Perform This Way" (one of Al's best yet) and "Polka Face," some YouTube videos and a few humorous short skits in which Yankovic has recently appeared for various outlets.
Even if you caught the recent premiere of the concert on Comedy Central, the DVD/Blu-ray is worth owning for any fan. Not only is the viewing experience unimpeded by commercial interruption, but the content is twice as long. (The televised version cuts two of the highlights, the medley and the encore, among others.) "Weird Al" Yankovic Live! - The Alpocalypse Tour perfectly encapsulates why Weird Al's career is still going as strong as ever while simultaneously establishing that his live show is just as enjoyable, if not more so, than his albums and videos.