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Concert Reviews:
Familiarity breeds content for Weird Al Yankovic at Freedom Hill
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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STERLING HEIGHTS -- Precious few acts bear up to repeat performances like Weird Al Yankovic.

He's clever and entertaining enough to make a two-hour show feel fresh even if it's filled with familiar costumes and video schtick or even if, in the case of his Mandatory Tour concert Saturday night, Aug. 27, at the Freedom Hill Amphitheatre, it's pretty much the exact same production that he and his band presented last summer. But it was nothing less than dependably fun, from the still-funny parodies to the witty original compositions.

Yankovic and his facile four-piece group -- adept at all of the many musical genres covered in the material -- worked their way through all or part of nearly three-dozen songs from Yankovic's nearly 40-year canon over the course of the show, a theatrical affair during which Yankovic sported 18 different outfits -- more than most pop divas, in fact. The changes were facilitated by briskly paced video interludes, some chronicling Yankovic's stature in popular culture, others generated by Yankovic himself, including irreverent faux interviews with Eminem, Celine Dion and R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe.

The latter even provided a launch pad for "We All Have Cell Phones," the show's one unrecorded song, which was tossed at the start of the encore to see who was paying attention.

And Yankovic has also reached the point where his creations have lives of their own -- so much so that favorites such as "Eat It" (Michael Jackson's "Beat It"), "I Lost On Jeopardy" (Greg Kihn's "Jeopardy"), "I Love Rocky Road" (Joan Jett's "I Love Rock 'N' Roll") and "Like a Surgeon" (Madonna's "Like a Virgin") could be rearranged and packaged for a late-show acoustic medley and received by his cult-like audience as welcome revisions of his own hits rather than merely take-offs of others' songs.

There were two other medleys -- including "Now That's What I Call Polka!" from last year's chart-topping "Mandatory Fun" album -- to help cover the necessary bases, while there were plenty of highlights amidst the individual songs. Yankovic started things off with "Tacky" (Pharrell's "Happy"), strolling through the Freedom Hill concourse and into the pavilion before mounting the stage. "Perform This Way" featured Lady Gagaesque costuming, while Yankovic and company dressed in Devo's trademark yellow suits for "Dare To Be Stupid" and he put on his heavyweight suit for "Fat" (Michael Jackson's "Bad").

"Wanna Be Ur Lovr" found him back in the pavilion performing comic come-ons for female fans, and Yankovic and his band members sported beards, hats ad suits for "Amish Paradise" (Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise"). The troupe was accompanied by Darth Vadar and eight Imperial storm troopers for "The Saga Begins" (Don McLean's "American Pie"), while "Yoda" (the Kinks' "Lola") finished the show with the small but exuberant crowd -- a sea of red beret-wearing devotees that included a couple of Yankovic lookalikes -- chanting the refrain with gusto.

Yankovic will no doubt have a few new tricks the next time he comes around, most likely when there's a new album to promote. But there's a comfort in knowing that Saturday's show was the kind that would be worth seeing again -- and even again -- if that was the case.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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