“All bets are off,” says Wolf Trap’s website, when “Weird Al” Yankovic, King of Parody, takes over the concert hall. Absolutely anything can happen. 35 years on, the polka-dancing, accordion-playing weirdo with the iconic curly hair is still kicking. And he’s better than ever.
It’s an incredible feat that for this long he’s been able to keep himself not only relevant, but fresh. Mandatory Fun is “Weird Al” at his best, performing his way through 35 years of his top hits – but it’s also a legitimate rock concert, with four rock-solid musicians playing alongside him (drummer Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz, bassist Steve Jay, and guitarist Jim “Kimo” West, all of whom have been with Yankovic since his beginnings in 1982; and keyboardist Rubén Valtierra, who has played with him since 1991). “Weird” isn’t really the right word; “zany” is probably more appropriate, as there’s nothing weird about the dedication that obviously goes into a “Weird Al” show. Suffice it to say that all are consummate musicians, Yankovic is a brilliant lyricist and phenomenal showman, and he sings live – and sounds just as good, if not better, than he did 30 years ago. He has just as much energy, too, as he polkas dances and jumps around the stage and zips his way through at least fifteen costume changes.
Maybe an even better word is “insane.” The best kind. This is your chance to see the brilliantly clever pop-culture phenomenon up close (enough for him to touch you, if you’re lucky enough to sit on an aisle), and it was a cacophony of color and sound as, at the top of the show, he made his way through the park and down into the house, stopping to dance wildly through the audience on his way to the stage, wearing a “Tacky” mismatched suit of plaid with striped pants and a hawaiian shirt (another Yankovic trademark).
The sold-out house erupted in cheers, and from there, it was two solid hours of continuous joy. And yes, there ARE stormtroopers, and also a bubble machine, an octopus suit, the trademark “Fat” suit, and a James Brown cape. And lasers, because, after all, this is a rock concert, one that pays tribute to many artists who didn’t feel they’d actually “made it” until he parodied them (Kurt Cobain comes to mind).
Those of you lucky enough to have seen Mr. Yankovic on his sold-out stop here last summer will recognize this madness. Still riding the wave of success from the release of his 2014 album Mandatory Fun – his 14th studio album – which put him at No. 1 on the Billboard chart for the first time and earned him his fourth Grammy Award, the 56-year old accidental superstar (he originally trained as an architect) is on the homestretch of his remounted 2015 world tour of the same name. The spaces between each number are filled with TV clips from the last 35 years of his career, as well as hundreds of pop-culture references to him (on The Simpsons, Friends, and Stephen Colbert, just to name a few), so for a first-timer, like myself, it was just as much fun to see which references I could pick out and which were too dated for me.
One final note about the timing of this particular stop: tonight, on September 11, we remembered the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in 2001. I remember exactly where I was. I also remember exactly where I was the very first time I ever saw a “Weird Al” music video – it was The Saga Begins, and I was nine, in a hotel room in Indiana on vacation with my family.
As I left Wolf Trap after the concert, I thought of how appropriate it is that we closed a day of mourning with such complete and utter laughter and joy. It is exactly what we needed. That is the job of an artist like Yankovic, and he did it beautifully. I don’t know if it was planned with 9/11 in mind, but how lucky are we that Alfred Yankovic has brought such a body of work to us? The world is a mess, but when we need laughter, there will always be a man with an accordion and a funny hat, curls blowing behind him, to help us get through.
Or maybe that was just the wind machine.
Running Time: Approximately two hours and 10 minutes, with no intermission.
“Weird Al” Yankovic’s Mandatory World Tour performed on Sunday, September 11, 2016 at the Filene Center at Wolf Trap – 1645 Trap Road, in Vienna, VA. For information about upcoming events or to purchase tickets, call the box office at (703) 255-1868, or visit their schedule online. Mr. Yankovic is touring through Saturday, September 24, 2016; for a list of the final eight tour dates and locations, visit weirdal.com/tour.