He's Al, He's Al, He's Al -- and He's All Right

Al and his accordion Weird Al Yankovic
with the Checkerboard Guy
Part of the PNE Star Spectacular
Pacific Coliseum
Vancouver, B.C.
Tuesday, August 19, 1997

Review by Alphonse Leong
Photography by Rodney Gitzel

The success of Weird Al has always kind of bothered me, as I see him as a scurvy goof preying on the artistic efforts of others. Yet there's no denying that the guy has a twisted ability to mercilessly seek out the embarrassingly funny aspects of any situation -- or song, particularly -- and really ram it home! And, as he proved to an appreciative crowd this evening, he actually does have some musical ability.

the Checkerboard Guy + volunteer (Unfortunately his border-crossing talents aren't quite as good, though, and it took him 17 hours to get from California to Vancouver, which made the show run a little late.)

the Checkerboard Guy + volunteer It was only fitting that a juggler would open the show, and this one repeatedly proclaimed his excitement at opening for one of his heroes. A well-known Vancouver street performer, the Checkerboard Guy made the best of his abbreviated ten-minute set and did a lot of the standard moves, including the juggling of a flaming torch, a battleaxe and a shoe while perched on the "Eight! Foot! Tall! Unicycle! Of! Death!!" But it was his rapport with the audience that really made the act, and even the ribald pokes at his volunteer participant seemed appropriate ("How many think that was mean?" he asked. "How many think it was funny?" You can guess which got more votes.).

A big-screen TV was a big part of tonight's show and it was used to preface Weird Al's entrance. (I suspect this tour may just be a promo effort for his new primetime TV show, because the clips, though hilarious, had a very "what a clever guy Al is" feel.) Yankovic arrived onstage alone, wearing Al! a shiny suit and singing a self-penned tune containing the line "Since you've been gone, I feel just as bad as when you were here." I was impressed with the range of his voice; he can sing, though there's always that clownish whine to it. Then the band came on and launched into the lampoon covers that everyone came to see.

They weren't holding holding back, starting with "Gump" and "The Alternative Polka," before Al writhed on a mattress for "Like a Surgeon," kicked around Santa Claus during "Fat" (yes, he wore the big outfit), and brought out the cheerleaders for "Smells Like Al! Nirvana." The first couple songs seemed a little off, no doubt a result of the border hassles, but Al and the band quickly got into it.

Definitely a well-executed performance, overall, especially on the long medley of Al's many, many parodies, including "Chicken Pot Pie," a great spoof of "Live and Let Die." There was amazing synchronization with the video screen and semi-choreography within the band. The costume changes, including a Fred Flintstone outfit for "Yabba Dabba Doo Now," were carried out flawlessly while mock interview clips were shown (with such targets as Madonna, Paul McCartney, and Billy Joel; Keith Richards put in an especially incomprehensible appearance).

So, reluctantly, I'm going to say that it was an entertaining show and that I admire the non-stop energy of Al, his band and the crew. I even concede the guy has some creative talent, as evidenced particularly on his song, "Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota." But I can't help thinking that if he were some jester in a medieval court, he would have been beheaded swiftly for his insolence.

First published in Drop-D Magazine on August 28, 1997

Index | Search | E-mail | Info | Copyright

Considering copying some of the images from this story?
Please read this first. Thanks.