‘Weird Al’ boasts top-tier crew for concert in Victoria

ON STAGE

What: “Weird Al” Yankovic
Where: Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre, 1925 Blanshard St.
When: Wednesday, Aug. 21, 8 p.m. (doors at 7)
Tickets: $45, $59.50, $79.50, and $99.50 from selectyourtickets.com and livenation.com or through the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre box office (250-220-7777)

 “Weird Al” Yankovic continues his successful four-decade run as the Prince of Parody with a concert tour he’s calling his “most overblown production ever.” For a comedian who’s coming off a 77-concert tour in 2018 that was dubbed the Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour, that certainly suggests Yankovic is setting the bar to a new height.

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Those familiar with him know he’s an adept performer, with lavish sets and top-tier production values. But the tour that brings the native Californian to Victoria Wednesday for an appearance at the Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre — his first show in the market since 2008 — will be on another level entirely. For his Strings Attached Tour, Yankovic will be performing with a full orchestra at each stop, backed by a four-piece band and three backup singers. His concert in Victoria is selling well and is expected to draw more than 3,000 fans to the arena next week, setting the stage for yet another triumph from the best-selling comedy artist in history.

Yankovic, 59, has always kept an even keel about his success, even at the midway point of a tour that has featured dozens of sold-out dates. “If you’re lucky, your career will have peaks and valleys, and you can’t get too full of yourself when you’re at a peak or too depressed when you’re at a valley,” Yankovic said recently, during an interview with CBC Radio.

“My wife and I have the saying: ‘Be the climate, not the weather.’ Just ride along with it and don’t get too caught up in yourself and just try to keep an even keel.”

Yankovic’s success, which includes four Grammy Award wins and his song parodies have been cultural touchstones at several points during the past 30-plus years, from his 1983 parody of The Knack’s My Sharona (My Bologna) and 1984 parody of Michael Jackson’s Beat It (Eat It) to 2014’s Word Crimes, his grammar-friendly riff on Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines. The song cracked the Top 40 the Billboard Hot 100, making Yankovic only the third artist in history — after Michael Jackson and Madonna — to have a top 40 hit in every decade since the 1980s.

His song choices have not always been well received by the artists being parodied. Famously, Prince turned down his requests (Yankovic never records a song against the artists’ wishes), but a multitude of others have welcomed him with open arms. Mandatory Fun, his 14th studio album, became the first comedy album in history to debut at the top of the Billboard sales chart when it arrived in 2014. A strong effort with parodies of originals by Iggy Azalea, Lorde, Imagine Dragons, Pharrell Williams and the aforementioned Robin Thicke, it introduced Yankovic to a new generation of YouTube devotees, some of whom were years from being born when Yankovic donned a fat suit to play Michael Jackson on 1988’s Eat It video.

His ability to skewer with skill the pop stars of today has endeared to him new audiences, the majority of which were reared in a generation where Internet trolls care little about decency. Yankovic now comes across as the nice uncle of the family, albeit one who’s a little quirky. And he has become a star all over again, to the surprise of everyone, including himself. “It’s really pretty ironic, because no one wanted to sign me to a record deal back in the early ’80s because I do what is ostensibly novelty music,” Yankovic told CBC Radio. “It’s really quite odd that I’ve managed to hang on for as long as I have.”

His current tour, which got underway June 5 in Florida, comes to Canada next week on the heels of a very successful U.S. run. His show in his native Los Angeles last week featured a 41-piece orchestra; Seth Green, Jane Lynch and American Housewife star Diedrich Bader were among those spotted in the audience.

Yankovic said during a recent interview with Billboard magazine that the idea for his Strings Attached Tour dates back almost three years, to a pair of performances at the Hollywood Bowl in 2016.

“The Bowl invited me to play with their orchestra and that’s an offer you don’t turn down. I was there with the 85-piece Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and it was almost a religious experience — I couldn’t even describe the feeling. When I did [my] Star Wars songs, I felt like I was inside the movie. You hear the Star Wars theme and you're kind of transported. It was such an experience that I talked to my manager afterwards and said, ‘Hey, if there's any possible way we can put together a whole tour like this, it would be amazing.’ I don’t know how we did it, but we actually managed to put it together.”

He turned to writing in 2011, and released a children’s book, When I Grow Up, which became a New York Times bestseller. Which begs the question: Is there anything “Weird Al” can’t do at this point?

“For the last decade or two, it’s really been a multi-generational fanbase. I look out into the audience, and there’s everyone from little kids to great grandparents, and they’re all having a great time. On [last year’s] tour, it was a little older audience, because I made it very clear we’re catering to the long-term hardcore fans who have been waiting like 30 years for me to play this obscure deep cut from their favorite album. So that wasn’t as much of a ‘big hits’ show. But we’re back to doing a show for everyone — we’re playing the hits, we’re doing the big production. This is meant to be something that hopefully everybody can enjoy, so again we’re seeing the families and the kids and every imaginable demographic.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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