Yesterday, Tuesday 3 August 2010, was an important day in the life of a Jet Wolf. For it was on this day that I finally saw Weird Al Yankovic live.
Seriously. I was thinking about it, and all hyperbole aside, this really is an achievement for me. I’ve been a consistent fan of Weird Al for longer than any other artist. I’ll repeat that.
I have been a fan of Weird Al for longer than I’ve been a fan of any other musical performer in the history of me.
Weird Al first came to my attention at about the time he came to the world’s attention, with the release of “Eat It”. (That dates me quite uncomfortably, but I’m working through it.) I was in fourth grade at the time, and at the center of my young life was MTV. Michael Jackson was the biggest star in the world, and here comes some dorky no-name white guy totally taking the piss out of the biggest song in the world. It was catchy. It was funny. It was brilliant. I was hooked.
I bought “Eat It”. On 45 record single. I think it may possibly have been the last record I bought. (Fun fact: That I can say I ever bought any record at all also dates me.) It wasn’t long before I bought Weird Al Yankovic in 3D (on cassette!) and played it almost constantly. To this day I can still sing the entire album from “Eat It” to “Nature Trail to Hell”. (I won’t.) Every subsequent album I bought without hesitation within a week of release, up to and including Internet Leaks.
Twenty-six years I’ve been a fan of Weird Al Yankovic. That’s longer than some of you reading this have even been alive. And while that makes me want to swing a pick-axe through your neck, the momentary joy won’t change the fact that for a lifetime Weird Al has been with me.
Until last night, I had never seen him live. What’s more, I hadn’t even considered it to be a life deficit. That’s interesting to me. I’ve seen Def Leppard three times. I’ve seen Muse twice. I saw Pink Floyd’s Division Bell tour and have tickets to Roger Water’s upcoming The Wall, but I still lament that I have never – and now, with the death of Rick Wright, will never – get to see the “real” full Floyd. I will never get to see Queen. I keep hoping desperately that the stars will align and I’ll someday get to see Bowie. I’ve seen dozens of other groups and acts and gigs and hope I never run out of people I want to see live.
But Weird Al was never a blip. It was just a factual thing; no lamenting, no cursing the cruel concert gods, just a “Nope, never seen him.”
But all that changed last night, and it was there that I think I figured it out.
If you’ve never been to his shows, I’ll paint you a quick picture. It’s two and a half hours of continuous action. When my friend Steve gave me the heads up to expect a lot of costume changes he wasn’t kidding – Al’s look for each song is integral. This means there’s often several minutes between songs while he’s backstage getting ready. There’s a viewscreen though, and each costume change is covered by a selection of clips and longish Al TV excerpts. The shorter clips are, among other things, assorted TV and movie references to Weird Al himself, from obscure cartoons I’ve never seen all the way up to The Simpsons and 30 Rock. The end result is a constant barrage of Al and zero actual downtime, despite the necessary performance pauses.
In addition, it’s important to spend a moment on the crowd. You’ve heard “Fun for all ages, from 6 to 60”? Well apparently so has Al, as this is exactly the kind of crowd cross-section we had. The Roseland Theater is a pretty small place but the age demographic was easily one of the most diverse I’ve ever been part of.
You see, Weird Al isn’t just some funny guy with a funny name making funny songs. Weird Al is a part of our culture. He’s ingrained into our collective consciousness. I’ve taken for granted the fact that Al will always simply be there, like electricity and drive-through cheeseburgers. And like those things, it’s only when the power’s out and McDonalds is closed that you really appreciate their value.
I’m glad it didn’t take the lack of Weird Al to make me appreciate the Weird Al we have right now.
I can honestly say that this was one of the best concerts I’ve attended. How the hell he maintained that level of energy from the second the show started to the second it ended is completely beyond me – I have to sit down and have a rest when I go to the kitchen for a drink.
If you have the chance to see Weird Al in concert, take it. Don’t think twice. Don’t think once. Act on pure instinct and get tickets.