'Weird Al' Yankovic Skewers 30 Years of Pop Culture at Calvin Theatre


There were a fair number of children in the audience Sunday night when “Weird Al” Yankovic performed at the Calvin Theatre in Northampton, and why not? They got a two-hour overview of the past 30-plus years of popular culture, delivered by a high-energy performer with a flair for showmanship. Not bad at all, if that was your first concert. Not bad if it was your thousandth, either.

Yankovic has amassed enough worthy songs over the years that he’d need a show twice that length to pack them all in, and he and his four-piece band rolled through an extended medley midway through the show in an effort to hit parts of as many tunes as he could, including parodies of Dire Straits (“Beverly Hillbillies”), ‘N Sync (“EBay”) and Huey Lewis (“I Want a New Duck”). They managed to play parts of 29 songs spanning Yankovic’s career, starting with “Polka Face,” an  accordion medley of recent pop hits by Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry and others. It was an indication of how closely Yankovic has stayed connected to pop culture, even in an age when pop stars tend to quickly teeter into unintentional self-parody without an assist from Weird Al. He was certainly on point with “TMZ” (his take on Taylor Swift’s “You Belong to Me”) and “Party in the CIA” (an almost too-accurate reinvention of Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the U.S.A.”).

Between songs, Yankovic showed clips of “Al TV” and his various, surprisingly numerous appearances on television and in the movies while he changed costumes. Suffice to say he travels with an extensive wardrobe: he dressed like Kurt Cobain, complete with lank blonde wig (and a pair of cheerleaders), on “Smells Like Nirvana”; wore khaki safari gear and a nametag on “Skipper Dan”; donned a red Michael Jackson-style leather jacket for “Eat It”; put on a fake beard and black suit for “Amish Paradise”; climbed into a plush peacock suit with wings for his Lady Gaga parody “Perform This Way”; and even found time to get in a fat suit and apply facial prosthetics for “Fat,” which ended the main set.

Yankovic switched among accordion, guitar and keyboards during the show while his band — bassist Steve Jay, guitarist Ben “Kimo” West,” keyboardist Ruben Valtierra and, of course, drummer John “Bermuda” Schwartz — helped flesh out the arrangements with rock-solid musicianship and backing vocals. They held down the groove while Yankovic, dressed in a red-and-black zebra striped suit, went into the crowd on “Wanna B Ur Lovr,” and mugged along agreeably with hip-hop poses on “White and Nerdy” and unison dance steps on “Fat.”

The whole crew returned for a “Star Wars”-themed encore — with matching costumes, naturally — that started with “The Saga Begins” (to the tune of “American Pie”) and wrapped up with “Yoda,” a Weird Al classic set to the tune of the Kinks’ “Lola.”

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