On the heels of his first ever number one album Mandatory Fun, “Weird Al” Yankovic is back on the road and recently finished his lengthy world tour with a stop in New York’s Radio City Music Hall. With his albums and music videos packed to the brim with absurd and exaggerated lyrics and imagery, fans are left to wonder how his music could translate into a live show. Yankovic gave the sold out theater a simple answer: amplify it to an equally excessive degree. The sold-out show kicked off with a live video feed of Yankovic entering the theater from off the street and mingling with fans as he walked up the aisle to the stage while performing a track from the new album, a parody of Pharrell Williams’ “Happy.” For the first three songs, the show moved along about as normally as any of his shows cou ld, with two more selections from the new album. Then the venue went dark and various clips from classic Yankovic skits and music videos, as well as cameo appearances in various movies and television shows played for a few minutes.
While the clips played, he and his backing band dressed up into increasingly elaborate costumes that augmented both the lyrical content of the songs and lampooned whichever artist happened to be on the receiving end. Whether it was a Lady Gaga-inspired octopus costume, a stoic Amish citizen or an accurate recreation of Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan Kenobi costume, Yankovic and his band fully relished the moment throughout many of the songs. A healthy dose of the new material was performed during the show, with half of the album making the cut, including the new obligatory polka medley of recent hit pop singles.
As always, many classic parodies made their way to the set list, with the Michael Jackson parodies receiving the loudest applause. Halfway through, the show took a surprisingly emotional note during two of the songs. The very same night of the show, Nirvana’s Nevermind and the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Blood Sugar Sex Magik both celebrated their 25th anniversaries respectively. When Yankovic busted out the respective parodies of both albums’ lead singles, it was both a funny sendup and a poignant reminder of both albums’ legacies.
Near the end of the show, the band huddled together with acoustic guitars, a small piano and a simple snare drum to perform rearranged versions of his classic parodies from his first three albums. Rather than simply taking the existing arrangements and transcribing them for acoustic instruments, the band took the existing lyrics and set them to an almost smooth jazz-like arrangement. The end result is a neat surprise to the ears.
The biggest surprise came at the very end during the last encore of “Yoda.” While leading the audience into a call and answer moment with the lead chorus, Yankovic invited In the Heights and Hamilton mastermind Linn-Manuel Miranda onto the stage for a very brief moment to recite the said chorus. Unexpected as it was, it was nice to see a universally acclaimed Tony-winning artist indulge with an artist as off key as Yankovic.