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"Weird Al" Yankovic Live! - The Alpocalypse Tour Blu-ray Disc Review

"Weird Al" Yankovic Live!: The Alpocalypse Tour (2011) Blu-ray cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com "Weird Al" Yankovic Live! - The Alpocalypse Tour
Special & DVD Details

Original Airdate: October 1, 2011 / Running Time: 86 Minutes (Extended Cut) / Rating: Not Rated (Broadcast Cut rated TV-PG)

Writer/Star: "Weird Al" Yankovic / Band Members: "Weird Al" Yankovic, Jim West, Steve Jay, Jon "Bermuda" Schwartz, Rubén Valtierra

Director: Wayne Isham / Executive Producers: Al Yankovic, Brian Volk-Weiss, Jay Levey, Jay Chapman, Justin Manask, Dana Marshall

1.78:1 Widescreen, Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired; Extras Not Subtitled;
Blu-ray Release Date: October 4, 2011 / Suggested Retail Price: $22.98
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50) / Blue Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($19.99 SRP)

Buy "Weird Al" Yankovic Live!: The Alpocalypse Tour from Amazon.com: Blu-rayDVD

By Aaron Wallace

If you think "Weird Al" is unusual, wait 'til you see him live. His shows aren't just concerts, they're music videos reenacted on stage. With Kurt Cobain wigs, Michael Jackson fat suits, and the occasional stormtrooper parade,
Al's every tour takes its place among the most elaborate and memorable in the industry.

His latest road show comes in support of Alpocalypse -- the Weird one's first album in five years. While the CD just hit stores this summer, its concert companion has just hit Blu-ray and DVD: "Weird Al" Yankovic Live! - The Alpocalypse Tour.

Naturally, the new album dominates the current set, its songs comprising about a third of the show. As ALbums go, his latest ranks above average, on par with recent fare like Poodle Hat but falling short of its previous, now-seminal classics, Running with Scissors and Bad Hair Day. Still, despite a belabored production and the long-in-advance release of five tracks on a digital EP, the genius lyricist's newest parodies are very much "now" and ripe for the stage.

"Weird Al" Yankovic strikes a demented pose for his Alpocalypse Tour title logo shot. Weird Al" Yankovic sings about primitive living in his Coolio/L.V. parody "Amish Paradise."

Among the new parodies are "Perform This Way" (a clever send-up of Lady Gaga's ridiculous persona), "Party in the CIA" (Miley Cyrus ear candy with an undercover twist), "TMZ" (an homage to Harvey Levin & Co., set to the twangy sounds of Taylor Swift), and "Another Tattoo" (a hilarious take on B.o.B's "Nothing on You"). There's also an extended polka mash-up of the last few years' biggest pop singles, plus a handful of original numbers, like "Skipper Dan," an instant fan favorite in which Al teases Disneyland's Jungle Cruise ride.

The rest of the setlist is a mix of Yankovic's biggest hits of the '80s and '90s, as well as less celebrated B-sides. In fact, there seems to be a deliberate (and welcome) effort to avoid songs captured on Al's previous concert video wherever possible. Of course, there's no avoiding some of his greatest -- "Fat," "Amish Paradise," and "The Saga Begins," for example. Now joining those on the list of "Weird Al" staples is "White & Nerdy," which in 2006 gave the King of Parody his first and only Billboard Top 10 hit.

The concert's highlight comes in the least likely of places: a seldom-mentioned original song called "Wanna B Ur Lovr." Dressed in loud d-bag attire from head to toe, Yankovic drops one smarmy pickup line after another as he ventures into the crowd to get very close to the ladies.

With "Weird Al", we tend to focus on the lyrics; after all, parodies are defined by their words, and Al's songwriting is some of the most intelligent out there. That makes it easy to overlook the musicality of his work. Yankovic's vocal range is seriously impressive, his tone divinely appointed to be both pitch-perfect and somehow appropriately annoying. His longtime bandmates -- Steve Jay, Jon "Bermuda" Schwartz, Rubén Valtierra, and Jim West -- are multi-genred wonders. The parody business demands versatility, and, man, do they have it. Much of the music and vocals in the special are live (Al's backing track sometimes takes over for him, most notably during the highest notes in "Another Tattoo"), yet they still sound dead-on.

With cheerleaders cheering him on, Weird Al emulates the late Kurt Cobain in his parody "Smells Like Nirvana." Weird Al gets right up in female audience members' faces in his performance of "Wanna B Ur Lovr."

Nowhere is the band's skillful dynamism on better display than in a central 11-song medley, which features some of the artist's rarer cuts, like "I Want a New Duck", "Spam", and "Theme from Rocky XIII", alongside more popular tunes like "eBay", "Eat It", and the quintessential "Lasagna." Don't let the word "medley" fool you -- sure, they're slightly abridged, but most get close to their entirety. In fact, these feel so much like separate performances that the transitions between them are somewhat abrupt.

Here's a look at the full setlist:

1. Polka Face (pop song medley)
2. TMZ (parody of "You Belong with Me" by Taylor Swift)
3. Smells Like Nirvana (parody of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana)
4. Skipper Dan (original, in the style of Weezer)
5. Party in the CIA (parody of "Party in the USA" by Miley Cyrus)
6. CNR (original, in the style of The White Stripes)
7. Let Me Be Your Hog (original, brief comedy bit)
8. Canadian Idiot (parody of "American Idiot" by Green Day)
9. Wanna B Ur Lovr (original, in the style of Beck)
10. Medley:

  • Money for Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies (parody of "The Ballad of Jed Clampett" by Jerry Scoggins and Flat Scruggs and "Money for Nothing" by Dire Straits)
  • Whatever You Like (parody of "Whatever You Like" by T.I.)
  • Another Tattoo (parody of "Nothin' on You" by B.o.B. and Bruno Mars)
  • eBay (parody of "I Want It That Way" by Backstreet Boys)
  • I Want a New Duck (parody of "I Want a New Drug" by Huey Lewis and the News)
  • Theme from Rocky XIII (parody of "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor)
  • Spam (parody of "Stand" by R.E.M.)
  • My Bologna (parody of "My Sharona" by The Knack)
  • Ode to a Superhero (parody of "Piano Man" by Billy Joel)
  • Lasagna (parody of "La Bamba" by Ritchie Valens)
  • Eat It (parody of "Beat It" by Michael Jackson)

11. Amish Paradise (parody of "Gangsta's Paradise" by Coolio)
12. Craigslist (original, in the style of The Doors)
13. Perform This Way (parody of "Born This Way" by Lady Gaga
14. White & Nerdy (parody of "Ridin'" by Chamillionaire and Krayzie Bone)
15. Fat (parody of "Bad" by Michael Jackson)

Encore
16. The Saga Begins (parody of "American Pie" by Don McLean)
17. Yoda (parody of "Lola" by The Kinks)

Weird Al breaks out his headband and keytar for "Money for Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies", the opening part of his central medley. Weird Al performs "Fat" in -- what else? -- a fat suit.

Having risen to stardom at the dawn of both the music video and VHS, "Weird Al" has a storied history on home video. Most notable from pre-digital days is The Compleat Al, a hysterical mockumentary that's yet to see DVD. He issued a music video collection to DVD in 1998, very early in the format's evolution... it was later replaced by the more comprehensive Ultimate Video Collection DVD in 2003. His wonderful 1989 feature film UHF and the entertaining CBS TV series "The Weird Al Show" are also available on disc. His last few albums included DualDiscs or bonus DVDs too. Curiously, he's never released a live album, but this marks his second concert DVD. The first, "Weird Al" Yankovic Live!, was released in 1999 and is still in print.

The Alpocalypse Tour was filmed in Toronto on July 16, 2011, and debuted on Comedy Central on October 1. Just three days later, an extended cut of the program was released on Blu-ray and DVD. I didn't see the TV broadcast, so I don't know which songs are new, but the press release claims nearly an hour of extended footage, and I assume that number includes the Bonus Features songs detailed below.

This marks Yankovic's Blu-ray debut, unless you count last month's Star Wars set, which includes the music video for "The Saga Begins." Also, don't be confused by Alpocalypse HD, which hits Blu-ray in November and includes music videos for every track on the album (plus a few others from Straight Outta Lynwood) but no live content.

The Force is with Weird Al on "The Saga Begins", a number that finds him joined by stormtroopers, Jedi knights, and Darth Vader himself, while the audience waves their arms in rhythm.

VIDEO and AUDIO

In the A/V department, this is far from the definitive, hi-def "Weird Al" experience, but most of the limitations come from the production, not the Blu-ray transfer. Presented in 1.78:1 widescreen and 1080p HD, the picture varies from middling to excellent. Up-close shots on stage, where lighting is abundant, are splendid in detail.
Everything from the wire frames on the microphones to the buckles on the "Fat" suit is exquisitely clear. Medium shots, however, see a steep drop in clarity, while long shots -- with all the darkness in the auditorium -- look downright unfocused and blurry. To some extent, that shortcoming is inherent in this kind of venue, but the production unquestionably values cinematography less than some of the prettier concert films we've seen on Blu-ray.

Meanwhile, the newly created video supplements, like the opening horror scene, and recent music videos are just about perfect in appearance. '80s and '90s videos are frequently sampled too, and clearly not having been prepared for HD exhibition, they don't hold up as well (but then music videos really aren't the purpose of this release).

The most disappointing aspect of the whole disc is the audio, for which there is only one option: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. The idea that a concert, where music is the primary draw, can come to HD home video in 2011 with a mere stereo track is kind of shocking. Even 1999's "Weird Al" Yankovic Live! had Dolby 5.1! I'm assuming that the concert wasn't even recorded in surround sound. What that tells us is that the Comedy Central broadcast was the top priority here, and the BD/DVD releases apparently an afterthought. Fortunately, the stereo track is top quality with plenty of volume and very clean sound. It's no puny soundtrack, but there's only so much a stereo mix can do. Paramount missed an opportunity deliver a "Weird Al" concert in uncompressed, HD surround.

Weird Al Yankovic makes use of an accordion in performances cut from the special but preserved as Blu-ray bonus features. Weird Al goes gaga for head replacement in his "Perform This Way" music video.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Bonus Features menu includes three complete performances, presumably part of the Toronto concert but cut out of the special. They are:

1. Frank's 2000" TV (original, in the style of R.E.M.)
2. You Don't Love Me Anymore (original, in the style of James Taylor)
3. You Make Me (original, in the style of Oingo Boingo)

"You Don't Love Me Anymore," a ballad in which Al sits on a stool with his acoustic guitar, is one of the best items on the whole disc. All three songs also show off some of the concert's best cinematography. It's a shame they had to get the axe, but they're thankfully preserved here. Together, they run 13:57, and can also be selected individually.

Next up are two music videos from Alpocalypse. The first is "Perform This Way" (2:56), a brilliant but undeniably disturbing parody of Gaga's get-ups. That's followed by the just-released "Polka Face" video (4:47), setting each song sample to simple, relevant animation.

A giraffe and its tongue get close to Weird Al as he feeds it leaves in one of his short YouTube clips. Weird Al and company persist at treating the sinking Titanic to live music in "And the Band Played On."

"Al's YouTube Clips!" (3:36) assembles a few of the comedy star's cell phone videos and digital shorts, which always garner "likes" and retweets online. Included are: "Grammar Lesson", "Tech Support", "The Eternal Question", "Message from Police Dept.", "The Grandeur of Nature", "Shopping Trip", "At the Zoo", and "Weird Al Shreds!!!"

The final section heading, Other Junk, presents four of Yankovic's recent appearances on TV or the web. "And the Band Played On" (3:19), in which Al plays a cheerily insensitive band leader on the sinking Titanic, was a hit on CollegeHumor.com, and for good reason.

Weird Al (left) gets bothered by a bus rider (also Weird Al) in this "One on One" short. Weird Al count syllables on his fingers per his Five-Haiku Interview responses for Jimmy Fallon.

The next two come from AOL. "You've Got... Lustrous Hair" (1:48) is a look inside the parodist's care regiment for his long, post-'90s locks, and "One on One" (3:36) features two "Weird Al"s on a bus, one obsessed with the other.

Finally, "The Five-Haiku Interview" (2:06) is an exchange from "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon", where both Q and A are posed in the form of haiku. This is funny enough, but even funnier was Yankovic's appearance on "Conan" this year -- too bad Comedy Central couldn't work out a deal to also include that.

The stylish main menu features rotating stills from the concert and the bonus features while the sounds of a roaring crowd blare from the speakers. In fact, the menu is excessively loud.

The disc is packaged in a standard Blu-ray case. All of the bonus features are in HD.

As long as Weird Al continues to don this red leather jacket and perform "Eat It", Michael Jackson will never be forgotten.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I had the chance to see "Weird Al" when I was fourteen and he was "Touring with Scissors" -- the concert run that was captured on his first live video in 1999. His shows are unlike any others, and while the experience of attending a concert can never be fully replicated on DVD or even Blu-ray,
his highly visual stage performances are more entertaining on the screen than most.

All things considered, the setlist on his previous release was stronger, but the new material on Alpocalypse still represents the first-rate satire that defines Yankovic's brand. Those of us who've followed his career for twenty years or more will appreciate some of the deep cuts highlighted from his catalog, while younger, more casual fans might be put off by parodies of older music they don't recognize.

The picture quality is excellent in some shots and faulty in others, but it seems the production (not the transfer) is to blame. The greatest shortcoming is the lone 2.0 stereo track, a surprisingly limited audio selection for a brand-new concert Blu-ray. Nevertheless, on the merits of enlightening entertainment value alone, The Alpocalypse Tour is easy to recommend and, unless you really hate parodies, sure to entertain.

Buy "Weird Al" Yankovic Live! from Amazon.com: Blu-ray / DVD / Weird Al Yankovic Tickets

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Reviewed October 8, 2011.



Text copyright 2011 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2011 New Wave Entertainment, Ear Booker Productions, Comedy Central Home Entertainment,
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