There's many different ways you could look at "Weird Al" Yankovic: a comic genius, an opportunistic hack who got lucky, and all points in between. But if you still harbor an inner 11-year-old who once thought UHF was the greatest movie ever, and wore out a cassette of Off the Deep End or Dare to Be Stupid, you had a reason to be at Pier Six Pavilion on Friday. After the audience was treated to a screening of Spaceballs, for no apparent reason other than that he and the movie share almost the exact same target audience, Yankovic entered to a fanfare by his band, carrying his trademark accordion.
Yankovic played a few notes of "The Chicken Dance" before launching into "Polkarama," the latest of the many polka medleys that appear on most of his albums, running 50 Cent and Pussycat Dolls songs alike through a grinder to become hyper oompa marches. His current tour is ostensibly in support of 2006's Straight Outta Lynwood, the first Top 10 album of his career, but given that it's been on shelves for nearly two years now, its parodies are starting to feel a little stale: Artists such and Usher and Chamillionaire have released follow-up albums since the hits Yankovic satirized in his set, and it's already hard to even remember a time when Taylor Hicks was famous enough to justify the "Weird Al" treatment, as on "Do I Creep You Out." In recent interviews, Yankovic has discussed the possibility of using digital distribution to release parodies of current chart-toppers in a timely fashion, which would hopefully lend a little more freshness to future tours.
Nonetheless, the show was a jam-packed two-hour run through Yankovic's biggest, silliest hits, complete with frequent costume changes. He got in full Pennsylvania Dutch garb for "Amish Paradise," donned a fatsuit for "Fat," and the entire band dressed as Storm Troopers and other Star Wars characters for "The Saga Begins" and "Yoda." A screen above the stage provided visual accompaniment for most of the songs and ran through various Al-related video footage to fill time during costume changes, much of it from Yankovic's many AL TV
specials that have aired on MTV and VH1. One trademark of those programs are his fake interviews, in which he pretends to interact with stock footage of pop-star interviews. Those segments, while often entertaining, sometimes slowed down the momentum of the show, and his flaccid "Lose Yourself" parody, "Couch Potato," came off even worse after Yankovic's hilarious fake Eminem interview.
Yankovic also uses his live shows as a clearinghouse for unreleased parodies that either weren't approved for release by the original artist or didn't make the cut for the album. And on Friday, he performed two Lynwood outtakes, the James Blunt takeoff "You're Pitiful," and a Gilligan's Island-themed T-Pain parody (guess whom he's in love with instead of a stripper). Although his albums have always featured a handful of original songs, Yankovic's stage show is consumed primarily with parodies. In fact, it was only during the encore that he indulged in one full-length nonparody, the rambling 11-minute story-song "Albuquerque," from 1999's Running With Scissors. It was a great, surprising way to end the show, catering to hard-core fans instead of throwing out one of his better-known parodies. Still, for a set that gave a short shrift to nearly all of his 1980s hits, save for "Eat It" and "Fat," it would've been nice to hear more from the decade that made Yankovic famous.