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“Weird Al” Yankovic @ Potawatomi Bingo Casino

June 2, 2011

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An adult venue like Potawatomi Bingo Casino's Northern Lights Theater may at first seem a peculiar choice for a singer so associated with adolescent silliness as “Weird Al” Yankovic, but the venue made sense considering that the fan base who first fell for the accordion-slinging comedy rocker is about 30 years older now. For his concert last Thursday, Yankovic went deep into his catalog and wardrobe to appeal to fans who know him as much for his originals as his spate of spot-on parodies of pop hits. His variety of costume changes and overall swagger qualify him as a sort of prop comic, though one with more than the visual puns of Carrot Top up his sleeve.

Being funny, however, is serious business, and there were times during his two-hour show that Yankovic broached a kind of topical sobriety. His officially unreleased James Blunt takeoff "You're Pitiful” and the song that followed, "Skipper Dan," about an actor who ends up hosting Disney World's Jungle Cruise ride, speak to disillusionment and resignation. As if to offer a palliative to those numbers' subtexts, however, Yankovic followed them with a diptych of ditties celebrating differing kinds of empowering reinvention: his current spoof on Lady Gaga, "Perform This Way," which found the Weird One donning a plush peacock outfit, and "CNR," a Deep Purple-styled slab of metal wherein the sorts of superhuman achievements usually attributed to Chuck Norris are credited to late “Match Game” panelist/actor Charles Nelson Reilly. Gaga got another nod in the opening medley done in the style most associated with Yankovic's main instrument, "Polka Face," wherein one of her hits shares a cheery 2/4 meter with biggies by Katy Perry, Jamie Foxx, Pink, Taio Cruz, Flo Rida and Owl City.

The closest Yankovic came to recreating the ambiance of one of his music videos was for "Smells Like Nirvana," wherein he sported Cobain-esque grunge-wear and brought out a pair of faux anarchist cheerleaders. That number was prefaced by a clip from “The Simpsons” where Homer cited both early-'90s Seattle rock and Yankovic, one of a panoply of snippets that ran on the screens flanking the stage, many of them from movies and TV shows that referenced Yankovic. Coming from most anyone else, that would seem egotistical; here it felt like a salute to a smart aleck who has penetrated the mass consciousness.

For the show's finale, Darth Vader, R2-D2 and some Star Wars stormtroopers came out to dance along to a medley including an “American Pie”-inspired summation of George Lucas' mythos ("The Saga Begins"), a re-tweaked Kinks classic (“Yoda”) and a stylized a cappella scat breakdown that would have done Lambert, Hendricks and Ross proud. Though it might be a shame that Yankovic has never committed himself again to motion pictures and series television, as he did with UHF and his Saturday morning children's show, the concert stage allows him to be nearly as much of an all-around entertainer as those other media would. Tweens missed out last Thursday, alas, but the grown-ups in attendance got a taste of most every way Yankovic can be entertaining.
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