More than 40 years after his first cameo on Dr. Demento’s radio show, “Weird Al” Yankovic remains the king of musical comedy. During his latest show at the Greek Theatre in his native Los Angeles, the 59-year-old parody pioneer pulled out all of his typical tricks and gags for a crowd filled with kids, celebrities (Seth Green, Jane Lynch, and Diedrich Bader were among those spotted, and nostalgic Gen Xers.
Silly costumes and prank-tastic props—from Nirvana get-ups and Menonite threads to “Tacky” jackets and Segways? Check.
Video montages, including Weird Al’s appearances across pop culture and a Funny or Die-produced biopic starring Aaron Paul, to allow time to put on those silly costumes? Check.
Farcical songs, from straight-up satire to lampoonish originals? What else would you expect to hear at a Weird Al concert?
But this particular show, as part of Weird Al’s Strings Attached tour, included an entirely new element for the near-septuagenarian: a 41-piece orchestra. Naturally, the man behind the mockery took full advantage of that support.
He started off his nearly-90-minute set with a trio of hits from his catalogue (“I Lost on Jeopardy,” “I Love Rocky Road” and “Like a Surgeon”), shortened and rearranged to better incorporate the array of instruments behind his usual backing band. That array of winds and strings came particularly in handy when lending depth and color to the wisecracking sounds of “The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota,” “Jurassic Park”, and the classic “Amish Paradise” to close out the main set, which enabled Weird Al to bust out “Harvey the Wonder Hamster” for (what he claimed was) the first time. It certainly didn’t hurt to have the symphony around to spice up more recent staples like “Word Crimes” and “White & Nerdy,” or to wrap up the night with music from Star Wars, following a double-header encore of “The Saga Begins” and “Yoda.”
And, naturally, Weird Al incorporated that panoply of players into his jokes, including a mock solo for the oboist and a head fake toward recognizing each and every member of the orchestra by name.
In some respects, having a symphonic accompaniment might seem like overkill for an act like Weird Al. After all, a philharmonic wall of sound typically lends greater gravitas to a catalogue—which, on paper, would hinder (if not defeat) the playful, lighthearted purpose behind his humorous tunes.
But Weird Al isn’t merely a comedian with an accordian—or, in the case of “You Don’t Love Me Anymore,” a busted-up guitar. He’s a legitimately talented singer and musician (as are all the members of his band) who opted to lend his sonic gifts and knack for clever songwriting to self-deprecating pieces.
That act may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for the thousands who turned out to see him at the Greek and the millions more around the world who have made him a commercial and cultural success, Weird Al remains as much of a legend as ever, with a discography and fanbase that rightfully spans generations.
Check out a gallery of photos from Saturday night’s show below courtesy of photographer Brandon Weil.
Setlist: “Weird Al” Yankovic | Greek Theatre | Los Angeles, CA | 8/10/2019
Set: Fun Zone, I Lost on Jeopardy, I Love Rocky Road, Like a Surgeon, The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota, Word Crimes, One More Minutes, Jurassic Park, Don’t Download This Song, Weasel Stomping Day, Tacky, Harvey the Wonder Hamster, Jackson Park Express, Smells Like Nirvana, Dare to Be Stupid, White & Nerdy, Amish Paradise
Encore: The Saga Begins, Yoda