Yankovic's targets keep moving, but his pop parody still hits mark

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
April 29, 2000
by Daniel Durchholz

Comedy and pop music don't always make the most comfortable bedfellows, but that hasn't stopped "Weird Al" Yankovic from becoming the king of pop parody, lampooning the hits of the day in a career that spans nearly two decades.

Yankovic's concert at the Khorassan Ballroom on Wednesday night was lengthy and loud, clocking in at just under two hours, and finding the singer and his four-piece band cranking out musically accurate spoofs of songs by Nirvana, Puff Daddy, Coolio and the Offspring.

In some ways, the show revealed the difficulty of being a musical parodist in the MTV age. Many of his songs are recognized by his audience for their videos as much as the music, and Yankovic - working on a smaller budget than say, Madonna, who faces the same struggle - made up for the fact in concert by affecting more costume changes than Cher, and relying on cheesy special effects, such as fake snow and soap bubbles.

At the same time, his musical targets keep moving. Yankovic performed some of his original tunes, like "My Baby's in Love With Eddie Vedder," which name-checks the leader of alt-rock avatar Pearl Jam, and "Germs," which takes off on gloom-and-doom specialist Nine Inch Nails. But those acts are no longer as ripe for parody as other groups currently favored by the fickle marketplace, such as the Backstreet Boys an 'N Sync.

Yankovic battled this problem by putting together a medley of songs by recent hitmakers such as the Spice Girls, Chumbawamba, Matchbox 20 and Hanson, and performing it polka style.

Vamping for time between costume changes, Yankovic made use of a large video screen to show segments of "Al TV," which featured fake interviews with celebrities such as Michael Stipe and an incoherent Keith Richards. There were also phony public service films such as "Our Friend Dirt" and "Be Nice to Your Teeth" the latter of which advised, "See your dentist every day."

For the most part, though, Yankovic's songs were front-and-center, and he gave energetic performances of "Jerry Springer" (a rapid-fire recasting of Barenaked Ladies' "One Week"), and "It's All About the Pentiums" (a technobabble-filled take on Puff Daddy's "It's All About the Benjamins").

He performed some of his older hits as well, including "Like a Surgeon," "Smells Like Nirvana," "Another One Rides the Bus," and his Michael Jackson send-ups, "Eat It" and "Fat."

It was interesting to note that occasionally, Yankovic's parodies have outlived the songs they made fun of in the first place. He sang "I Lost on Jeopardy," which is based on Greg Kihn's "Jeopardy," but who remembers that song anymore - or Greg Kihn, for that matter?

Yankovic closed with "The Saga Begins," his retelling of "The Phantom Menace" set to Don McLean's "American Pie," and "Yoda," which makes use of the Kinks' classic "Lola." Whether Yankovic and his songs will outlive the Star Wars phenomenon remains to be seen, but don't bet against him.