Month: February 2018

Weird Al Originals

"Weird Al" Yankovic's Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour kicks off tonight in Poughkeepsie, NY. This tour is unique: rather than the usual costume-filled, parody-focused multimedia extravaganza (which I've seen six, or maybe eight, or maybe ten times; as I noted in yesterday's post, I've honestly lost track at this point), Al will be focusing on his original songs.

Consensus among Weird Al fans is, the originals are better than the parodies. That point has been a fixture of Nathan Rabin's The Weird Accordion to Al series, which, for those of you just joining us, is what got me talking about Weird Al these past few posts.

I love Al's originals, and I wonder which ones he'll play. He's kept the set list under wraps, but he confirmed two things in a Rolling Stone interview last October: he'll be playing Albuquerque, and he won't be playing Hardware Store. Hardware Store is a fan favorite, so it's disappointing to hear it won't be part of the tour -- but Al explains, reasonably, that it's just too complex to play live on stage.

And if Hardware Store is too complicated, I'm guessing we won't be hearing Genius in France, either. That's a shame too -- but man, there are plenty of other great options.

I think Dare to Be Stupid is a given. I can't imagine making a list of original Weird Al songs without it.

I've seen him perform Dog Eat Dog, One More Minute, and The Night Santa Went Crazy live before. I'm not sure if that makes them likely contenders for the Vanity Tour, though -- after all, if he's focusing on lesser-known songs, breaking out the originals he's done on previous tours doesn't necessarily fit the theme.

But there are plenty of other great choices. Frank's 2000 Inch TV and Everything You Know is Wrong are old favorites. Close, But No Cigar features some of my favorite lyrics ("She had me sweatin' like Nixon every time I was near; my heart was beatin' like a Buddy Rich solo"). His last album, Mandatory Fun, has some great damn originals, including Lame Claim to Fame, Mission Statement, and First World Problems.

Or maybe -- and perhaps most exciting of all -- he'll do some new stuff. This is, after all, not one of those concerts that people are going to because they want to hear the hits.

I'm sure fans will be sharing the set list by tonight, though I'll try not to peek; I want to be surprised by the time he makes it to Phoenix in May.

And tonight's set list won't be every song he'll play on the tour; Al said in the Rolling Stone interview that he'd have two shows' worth of material ready.

Maybe I'll have to head down to Tucson so I can see him twice...

Weird Al in Concert

This is the latest in a series of stories about my experiences as a fan of "Weird Al" Yankovic, inspired by Nathan Rabin's The Weird Accordion to Al series. Previously, I've posted about my earliest encounters with Al's work, and my memory of the first time I heard I Remember Larry. This one is about exactly what it says on the tin.

I'm not sure how many times I've seen Weird Al in concert, but it's at least six.

The first time would have been at the Arizona State Fair in 1997. I remember he played Dare to Be Stupid and Dog Eat Dog. But the most memorable thing about that concert is that it was the first time I ever asked a girl out.

I had just turned fifteen. She was the girl who I would spend most of high school hopelessly, madly in love with. Unrequited, mostly.

And she said yes.

I asked a girl out, for the very first time; a girl I was crushing on, badly. And she said yes. My knees were jelly but it was all worth it. It felt good. Good enough that when she called me a few days later to tell me she couldn't make it because she had church, okay, that was a disappointment, but it still felt pretty good that she'd said yes at first.

The next Weird Al show I remember for sure was at Celebrity Theater. I'm pretty sure that was the show where he did The Night Santa Went Crazy and the fake-snow machine got all gummed up and dumped a huge pile of white crap on some poor bastard in the front row. (My dad swears that was one of the State Fair shows, but my brother and I agree it was at Celebrity.)

And I saw him again at the State Fair sometime after Running with Scissors; my dad and brother were with me, as was my then-girlfriend. I remember this one because there was a bit he'd do for the encore; a Jedi-hooded figure would come out and work the audience a bit, then pull back the hood to reveal...that it wasn't Al, it was the keyboard player. My brother made fun of me because I fell for it, even though we'd already seen them do that bit at a previous show.

We saw him at the Dodge Theater some time after that. I remember it was a relatively small show for the Dodge; they partitioned off the ends of the hall. I also remember that the very next night, we saw Ringo Starr's' All-Starr Band at the same venue -- to a larger but far more lethargic audience. Weird Al put on a better show than a goddamn Beatle.

And I remember seeing him again at the State Fair, where, unlike every other time I'd seen him, he put the Star Wars material right before intermission, instead of using it as his encore. What, then, would be the encore? I wondered. I was quite excited when I found out the answer: when he came out and played the opening notes of Albuquerque, I actually cheered.

The last time I saw him was at the Celebrity again. Dad and I got front-row seats. And got his spit on us during the gargling part of Smells Like Nirvana.

Those are the six shows I definitely remember as six distinct shows. I'm pretty sure there were some other ones in there too. I wanna say there was at least one more show at the fair and one more at the Celebrity. But it's been twenty fucking years, and it's all started to get a little hazy.

I didn't make it to any of the shows on the Mandatory Fun tour. But I'm damned excited about the Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour, which kicks off tomorrow night and promises to be unlike any Weird Al show I've ever seen before, whether I've been to six of them, eight, ten, or whatever. No costumes, no videos, few parodies. A concert of Weird Al originals.

I've got my tickets for the Phoenix show. I wonder what he'll play?

I Remember I Remember Larry

Boy, it's been awhile, hasn't it?

I got sick, and busy. This post is about the Weird Al song I Remember Larry, and I originally intended to post it to coincide with Nathan Rabin's entry on I Remember Larry in his The Weird Accordion to Al series. That went up on December 20. So...yeah, I've been sitting on this one awhile.

In 1996, I moved back to my hometown and started high school. I met some new friends and started hanging out with them at lunchtime.

One day, one of them handed me his Walkman and his headphones and told me I had to listen to this song.

The tape was Bad Hair Day. I was something of a casual Weird Al fan by that point; I'd heard Amish Paradise and Gump. I may even have bought the Gump single by that point; I'm not sure. But I don't think I'd heard any of the other songs on the album, and I'd certainly never heard the one my friend played for me that day.

It was I Remember Larry and my friend was right: it was funny. It's one of Al's cheerful, upbeat songs that ends in murder (I don't think I'd heard Good Old Days yet at that point, but it's certainly reminiscent of that earlier song, albeit bouncier and featuring a much more relatable protagonist).

Some sixteen and a half years later, the kid who played I Remember Larry for me on his Walkman performed my wedding.

Brad performs a wedding

Now, I'm not saying there's a clear path from point A to point B here. I'm not saying that Brad and I became and remained close friends because of I Remember Larry. But I suspect our mutual appreciation for pitch-black humor wrapped in an ironically cheerful veneer is a big part of why we clicked.

He had me keep listening through Phony Calls and The Night Santa Went Crazy, too.