Weird Al Yankovic, young America's favorite musical humorist, is the master parodist, twisting rock hits to devious satiric purpose, as was evident at a sold-out Warner Theatre Sunday night.
The best of the latest: "It's All About the Pentiums," a sendup of Puff Daddy's "It's All About the Benjamins," rebooted to computer culture and featuring a silver-suited Al rapping out tech-nerd insults; and a show-stopping "The Saga Begins." The latter is Yankovic's retelling of George Lucas's "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace" via the melody of Don McLean's "American Pie." Yankovic and his veteran band--guitarist Jim West, bassist Steve Jay and drummer Jon "Bermuda" Schwartz--came out in full "Star Wars" regalia, the last of numerous costume changes that turned their performances into videogenic delights.
Yankovic, a gifted mimic, may be the star, but he wouldn't be half as convincing without a band capable of playing virtually every style of music with astonishing facility.
The two-hour show was a high-tech marvel incorporating state-of-the-art lighting effects and a big video screen for well-timed film and television interpolations. Yankovic trotted out dozens of audience favorites: the quirky Devo-ish anthem "Dare to Be Stupid"; "Like a Surgeon," a sendup of Madonna's "Like a Virgin" with surgical scrubs and stupid cone-bra tricks; "Bedrock Anthem," the "Flintstones" saga spiced up with Red Hot Chili Peppers melodies; "Amish Paradise," a culture-clash takeoff on Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise"; and "Smells Like Nirvana," in which a wigged Yankovic managed to both look and sound (unintelligibly) like the late Kurt Cobain.
He threw in a few originals, notably the psychodrama "The Night Santa Went Crazy," with cascades of fake snow that made the theater feel like an oversized snow globe. And Weird Al being Weird Al, there was a full menu of food parodies, including new sendups of Alanis Morissette's "Thank U" (now directed at fast-food restaurants) and "My Heart Will Go On" (the "Titanic" theme adapted to pizza toppings), along with such Michael Jackson-inspired classics as "Eat It" and "Fat," for which Yankovic came out in blimp-size regalia and pudgy prosthetics.
It all made for great hilarity, though Yankovic's catalogue is so deep that some of his most popular works were reduced to medley-size bites. Still, no one left hungry and the only bellyaches were the result of nonstop laughter.
CAPTION: Weird Al Yankovic combined high tech and low humor at the Warner Theatre.