What: “Weird Al" Yankovic
Where: Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre
When: Wednesday, Aug. 21
“Weird Al” Yankovic was in concert at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre on Wednesday night, which seemed like an odd fit prior to showtime.
It has been years since Yankovic last played Victoria, and when his tours have stopped at the city, the Royal Theatre was his chosen venue. With his most recent recording five years in the rearview mirror, booking Yankovic into the 7,000-seat hockey arena was … well, ambitious.
It only seemed like a stretch until the Grammy Award winner took the stage. With an audience of 4,027 fans devouring every pun and punchline, the atmosphere was comparable to that of a rock show. The song parodist never hit a sour note, and with thousands of diehards in the seats — the half-bowl arrangement in the arena meant the show was at capacity — he more than satisfied.
There were cringe-worthy moments. And no, Yankovic isn’t nearly as funny as some fans make him out to be (a pair of women in the audience giggled out loud at every syllable out of his mouth, which seemed a touch over-the-top).
Some of his parodies haven’t aged well. References to defunct file-sharing sites such as Kazaa are bound to ring hollow. But he’s a savvy performer, indeed.
The tour date that was part of his Strings Attached Tour got underway with a set by the 41-piece Vancouver Opera Orchestra, whose movie music — including theme songs from Raiders of the Lost Ark, Mission: Impossible, and Star Wars — was well received. Again, it was a bit of an odd fit (one attendee was heard bellowing, “That was awful”), but overall the symphonic set worked within the confines of the evening.
The orchestra joined Yankovic on most songs during his set, and added some surprisingly deep textures to a range of well-known hits.
Amish Paradise, his spit-take parody of rapper Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise, was transformed entirely by a lush string arrangement; his jazzy renditions of Like a Surgeon, I Love Rocky Road, and I Lost on Jeopardy were about-faces of the big band variety, but the audience loved it.
A giant video screen showing lyrics came in handy on the rapid-fire Word Crimes, one of his strongest parodies, as it reinforced what Yankovic does well: turn pop music inside out by exposing its inanity, Yankovic isn’t Shakespeare, either — but he sure is witty.
The video screen was brought back for a series of clips that showed Yankovic on The Simpsons and in videos with Weezer, reinforcing the breadth of his abilities while simultaneously proving that he's often best-suited for video.
The video packages were helpful in that it kept the concert from lagging. Yankovic is not performing Eat It and Fat, his Michael Jackson parodies, on this tour, so his set was missing two his most well-known songs. The video segments were hilarious and helpful, especially the faux-biopic with Aaron Paul of Breaking Bad in the role of Yankovic. These bits may have saved the day.
Yankovic is quite an accomplished singer when he wants to be, with one heck of a four-piece backing band in place for support. Though he always shoots for funny bones, Yankovic's delivery wasn't far removed from that of a velvety crooner on occasion. He's a talent, comedy or otherwise.
He may have been looking for laughs, but that doesn't mean he didn't find some musical magic along the way Wednesday.