Dateline: 5/28/2015 — Just got back from tonight’s “Weird Al” Yankovic concert at Indianapolis’ Old National Centre (formerly the Murat Shrine until new corporate overlords focus-grouped the history right out of its name). At my age, and with many Weird Al albums lining my shelves, you’d think this would’ve been my fifth or sixth time, or that perhaps I spend summers following him and studying his arcane accordion methods. Alas, such is not the case. Despite my inexcusable shame and four decades of poor timing, now I can say I’ve seen him live, and that’s another bucket list item crossed off with gusto.
The royal granddaddy of YouTube musical parodists was here in town touring for his most recent album, Mandatory Fun, much of which longtime MCC readers may remember hearing last year. My wife, a generous and loving woman to whom I owe and offer never-ending gratitude, bought me a ticket as an early birthday gift. She knows it’s rare that my favorite musicians come to Indy, and even rarer that I take advantage of such opportunities. Due to logistical issues I regretfully ended up attending solo, but the magic of modern technology allowed me to show her a couple of wobbly photos from the scene and send occasional confirmation that I was still in one piece and hadn’t been mugged or drugged or stomped flat in a mosh pit or tempted to desert her and become a full-time Weird Al roadie. I’m sure he has a years-long waiting list for that anyway.
I arrived shortly after 6:30. I ran into a few people I knew, which really took me aback because that hardly ever happens at these things. I’m not used to friends and family sharing my musical tastes. Weird Al is quite the bridge-builder that way, uniting generations and family branches, crossing gaps across radio preferences and giving many of us a solid reason to leave streaming media behind for a couple of hours and remind ourselves what band instruments look like in person.
Weird Al and his longtime band, one of the sharpest and most versatile units in all of pop music history, took the stage shortly after 7:30 and proceeded to put on exactly the kind of professional, seamless, scintillating, rollicking performance that we naturally assume is the only kind of show they know how to put on.
The complete set list for Weird Al’s Indianapolis show tonight:
“Fun City” (as prerecorded overture)
“Lame Claim to Fame”
“NOW That’s What I Call Polka!”
“Perform This Way”
“Dare to Be Stupid”
“First World Problems”
“Smells Like Nirvana”
“Party in the CIA”
“Another One Rides the Bus”
“Ode to A Super-Hero”
“Wanna B Ur Lovr”
“Eat It” (tuned to Eric Clapton’s acoustic version of “Layla”)
“I Lost on Jeopardy”
“I Love Rocky Road”
“Like a Surgeon”
“White & Nerdy”
“We All Have Cellphones”
“The Saga Begins”
“Yoda” (with the “Yoda chant” interlude known well to his most dedicated concert fans)
Between songs, the back-wall screen played clips from Weird Al’s various TV/movie appearances, uses of Weird Al’s names as sitcom punchlines, Weird Al guest-spots on various online channels, and clips from his own music videos. Fans of The Simpsons, The Naked Gun, My Little Pony, “Epic Rap Battles of History”, and his many other celebrated media moments weren’t disappointed. The polka medley was backed with clips from the original artists’ videos, which is the only way you’d ever catch me and a prancing Miley Cyrus in the same venue at the same time. For the gaudily suited-up opener “Tacky”, Weird Al began singing outside while a cameraman followed him and allowed us to watch onscreen until the two of them entered the theater from the back and suddenly we had dueling Weird Als in the house, one normal-sized and in person plus one larger and flatter.
Constant costume changes were the norm as always. “Fat”, “Smells Like Nirvana”, the Devo homage “Dare to Be Stupid”, “Amish Paradise” and a few others demanded the use of their corresponding single-song disguises. For “Perform This Way” his outfit included a hat shaped like an upside-down ice cream cone. “Wanna B Ur Lovr” summoned forth his cheesiest lounge suit and gave him the chance to sashay down into the audience and serenade a few lucky folks up close and to their eternal thrilled embarrassment.
And then there was that encore. Weird Al brought in some very special guests: members of Indy’s own chapter of the fightin’ 501st Legion. When you have Star Wars musical numbers in your program, they’re the obvious security/dancer choice.
No, it’s not a great pic, but it’s the least horrid of the bunch. I didn’t spend much time on photos during the concert because this was something I wanted to see for myself. I tried a few half-hearted times but kept telling myself to let it go. I was here for the real, flesh-‘n’-blood-‘n’-snacks Weird Al, not a tiny Weird Al on a four-inch screen. I can see plenty of that Weird Al at home. Fortunately the venue didn’t care if cell phone users went nuts taking pics, but they cracked down hard on anyone bold enough to whip out a careerist’s expensive DSLR camera, like the guy two seats to my left who spent the rest of the evening grumpy and motionless after security called him out. Call it a technical victory for the little, underequipped amateurs like me, I suppose.
It was a blast. I never worried it would be otherwise. By the time he got to “Yoda”, the last song on side one of the first Weird Al album I ever bought on cassette, the air was electric and I was buzzing on pure glee because for the space of two hours music was alive and well and fun again, and I remembered all those parodies I adored as a kid that inspired me to try writing a few of my own in later years, just as millions of other impressionable weirdos did. And see, there’s another bridge built between us.