'Weird Al' Yankovic Live! The Alpocalypse Tour DVD Review
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 10.14.2011
The Clown Prince of Pop takes his latest tour to the stage for Comedy Central, but is the DVD worthy of his career or does it fail to capture the magic of his live performances? 411's Jeremy Thomas checks in with his full review!
Directed by: Wayne Isham
"Weird Al" Yankovic - Vocals, Accordion
Jon "Bermuda" Schwartz - Drums
Rubén Valtierra - Keyboard
Jim West - Guitar
Steve Jay - Bass
DVD Release Date: 10/04/2011 Running Time: 86 minutes
In the music industry, there are a select group of artists out of the thousands upon thousands who achieve fame that have ascended beyond a quick moment in the spotlight to become enduring icons, embedded firmly within the consciousness of pop culture. Michael Jackson, Prince, Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne, the Rolling Stones...these are a handful of those who have garnered a career that spanned or still spans decades. Also on that list, without much room for argument, has to be "Weird Al" Yankovic. Some may scoff at this notion, but they can't deny the man's fame and success. Yankovic's career has spanned twenty-seven years and thirteen studio albums, nine of which have attained Gold or Platinum status and seven of which have earned Grammy nominations (with three wins, no less). While he may not consistently rule the Billboard charts like the artist that he parodies, he has outlasted almost all of them and continues to be the icon of comedy music. As some have said, if Michael Jackson was the King of Pop and Madonna the Queen, than Weird Al is most certainly the Jester or Clown Prince. His parodies and original comedic songs are always looked forward to by a throng of devoted and casual fans alike, and his live tours are just as anticipated. With the release of his latest studio album Alpocalypse in June of this year, Yankovic has embarked on the Alpocalypse Tour, with his Toronto stop airing on Comedy Central on the first of October. Immediately after saw the release of "Weird Al" Yankovic Live! The Alpocalypse Tour on Blu-Ray and DVD to allow the concert to reach fans not fortunate enough to see him in his currently ongoing tour.
Yankovic's concert film, filmed from Massey Hall in Toronto, plays several of the songs off of his current album but has several of his classic hits as well. After a brief Nightmare on Elm Street-like introduction video, which also served as one of the teasers to the album and features the maniacal creation of Yankovic's famous accordion, the film goes right into Yankovic's first song, his most recent polka mash-up titled "Polka Face" which includes snippets of songs by Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Justin Bieber, Kid Cudi, Owl City, Jamie Foxx and more converted into polka. As the tour progresses, Yankovic's performances include such songs as "TMZ" (a parody of Taylor Swift's "You Belong to Me"), his parody of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" titled "Smells Like Nirvana," his Chuck Norris Facts-inspired ode to Charles Nelson Reilly "CNR," the once-controversial "Amish Paradise" which is one of the few songs ever to be given a negative reception from the original artist and of course "Fat," "Eat It" and more.
I grew up as a "Weird Al" fan; in fact, the first cassette tape I ever personally owned was Yankovic's first studio album In 3D and I remember wearing it out listening to such songs as "Eat It," "I Lost on Jeopardy" and my personal favorite off that album, "Nature Trail to Hell." I've also been to his concert a few times when he's stopped in Portland, some of the only live concerts I've ever had the pleasure of seeing. That said, I have been a similar fan of many other artists and have found disappointment upon seeing them in live concert films or DVD's. Yankovic, on the other hand, is just as entertaining to watch at home as he is to see live. Despite having a dedicated fanbase who will show up any chance they get to see him, Yankovic always gives his all in his concerts and does his best to make sure those loyal fans go home satisfied. If The Alpocalypse Tour is any indication, fans who are attending his tour that runs through November have nothing to worry about. Yankovic runs through his hits with the kind of gusto that makes for an impressive show. Many of the songs require costume changes; he puts on a blonde wig and grunge attire for "Smells Like Nirvana," dons a fat suit for "Fat," a giant peacock suit for "Perform This Way" and Jedi robes for "The Saga Begins." Not every song has a costume change but the ones that do really enhance the humor.
Yankovic is a consummate performer and he even makes some of the lesser songs in his set list funnier in his performance. One example of that is "Wanna B Ur Lover," a song off 2003's Poodle Hat. The song is funny enough on its own but forgettable in the midst of Yankovic's other tracks; here in concert however, he dons a ludicrous red and black zebra-patterned lounge lizard suit and makes the song come alive, complete with a trip into the crowd where he fearlessly croons the song's cheesy pick-up lines to female members of the audience. It's a hilarious performance and that level of fan interaction helps lift the song far above the humor level of the track as it sounds directly of the CD.
One thing that Yankovic doesn't get nearly enough credit for is being a talented musician. This is not just a guy who jumbles up song lyrics to popular tunes in order to make them funny. If his original songs aren't proof enough that he makes a great musical artist, the fact that he can cover so many genres should send the message very clearly, and his longtime band that performs with him are just as talented. The set list exemplifies that, covering genres from rock and pop to rap, folk, R&B and more. One of the best examples of how good he is of this is the medley in the beginning where Yankovic and his band almost seamlessly transition through a number of his songs. The medley starts off with "Money For Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies," then moves through "Whatever You Like," "Another Tattoo," "eBay," "I Want a New Duck," "Theme from Rocky XIII," "Spam," "My Bologna," "Ode to a Superhero," "Lasagna" and "Eat It." For those keeping track, that's a smooth run through the styles of Dire Straits, T.I., B.o.B., Backstreet Boys, Huey Lewis and the News, Survivor, R.E.M., The Knack, Billy Joel, Los Lobos (or Richie Valens, if you prefer) and Michael Jackson without stopping. I challenge any other musician to pull it off, and Yankovic and his band do it without a hitch. To call that impressive is an understatement.
While Yankovic and the band performs the screen in the back often plays the videos for his songs which are often just as memorable and funny as the songs themselves, and director Wayne Isham occasionally cuts to the screen when relevant to enhance the performance. Isham does a great job of capturing Al in concert and the occasional sweeping camera shots are kept restrained, allowing Yankovic and the band to take the spotlight. Isham's occasional cuts to the crowd show how much fun the audiences are having with the show, but even someone not paying attention to the screen can hear that. It's one hell of a ride throughout the 86 minutes and the Toronto crowd was very game for going along with it, going especially (and predictably) crazy when Yankovic busts into "Canadian Idiot." By the end of the show, the man is clearly exhausted and from the looks of it has sweated his body weight onto the stage, but his energy never lags. If that's not an enticement for fans of his brand of humor get to his concerts, I don't know what is.
Film Rating: 8.5
Comedy Central's presentation of the concert is presented in a 1.85 widescreen ratio and looks perfectly fine for a concert video. It's not overtly flashy but as I said, there's no need for it to do so. There are no real issues with the video presentation; everything comes through clearly and other then a couple small moments where a stage light is caught by an errant camera move, it's a thoroughly pleasant visual experience, at least for what is demanded of it.
Video Rating: 8.0
The audio track for the show is definitely adequate, though not quite flawless. This doesn't appear to be the fault of the audio transfer, but instead a sound leveling problem where on a couple of the harder-rocking tracks the instruments threaten to drown out Yankovic's voice. This isn't necessarily a huge issue and is frankly to be somewhat expected in a concert video, and anyone looking to purchase the DVD probably knows most of these songs by heart anyway. but it does knock the audio experience down just a bit. There is no subtitle track.
Audio Rating: 7.5
The Apocalypse Tour DVD is housed in the standard-sized white snap case, featuring the tour poster on the front of a cartoon Yankovic wielding a sword and his according while floating heads of the Four Horseman hover overhead, in keeping with the apocalyptic name of the album and tour. The case is not the sturdiest due to internal cutouts where the disc goes and on the opposite side, but it's perfectly acceptable. The menus of the disc itself are easy to navigate and nicely include the ability to jump to any song in the concert, with the disc itself having a similarly apocalyptic theme. It's not anything that goes out of its way, but it is perfectly fine as a whole.
Packaging Rating: 7.0
More Songs (13:55) For those who didn't get enough Weird Al from the feature itself (and really, if you buy this DVD you can never have too much Weird Al), there are three more songs here. The songs are taken from a cut section in the middle of the show and include some humor involving drum and bass solos. Included are three of his original songs: "Frank's 2000-inch TV," his classic ballad "You Don't Love Me Anymore" and "You Make Me," all of which are as good as the performances left in the feature.
Music Videos: (7:41) Two music videos are shown here. The first the disturbing-yet-funny video of "Perform This Way," a parody of Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" which features Yankovic's head CGI'd onto a female dancer. The second is for "Polka Face" which features a different style of animation for each of the songs covered in the mash-up and while not all of them work, enough do that it's certainly worth seeing.
Al's YouTube Clips: (3:35) This is an odd collection of eight clips from Yankovic's YouTube account. They include, among others, a trip to the grocery store to teach a lesson in grammar, an amusing bit where he tries to get tech support for his DVD player, a great re-enactment of one of the most famous jokes of all-time and more. Some of them are quite funny, others just a little weird, but they're all short so even the less funny ones are not a waste of time.
Other Junk: (10:48) This is a collection of humor shorts. The best of them is the first, which is a College Humor short where Yankovic is the band leader on the Titanic who is determined to play on while the ship sinks, but doesn't have the most uplifting of tunes. A bit about his hair is less funny but still has its moments; the next is titled "One on One' and uses split screen magic to have Al playing both himself and a crazy, obsessed fan on the bus. It's also strange but there are a few chuckle-worthy moments. The last is "Five Haiku Interview Questions" from Jimmy Fallon and is probably the second-funniest of these four shorts.
Special Features Rating: 8.0
The 411: "Weird Al" Yankovic's latest concert DVD "Weird Al" Yankovic Live! The Alpocalypse Tour will not necessarily win any converts who are not already fans of the comedy music icon, bot those who are already fans of his work will love it. Featuring both his newer songs and classic hits, it accurately shows the fun of a Yankovic concert and is funny from beginning to end. Decent tech specs and a solid set of special features make this a concert DVD well worth picking up. Highly recommended.