25 August 2000

Weird Al concert report: Birmingham and Bermuda (LONG)

[Originally posted to alt.music.weird-al.]

I probably don't have to tell you guys that Al was in concert at the Alabama Theatre in Birmingham on Wednesday night, so I won't. 8) I will tell you that this is my report on that concert. First, I need to give you a little background.

I last saw Al live in concert when he performed at the Oak Mountain Ampitheatre in Birmingham as the opening act for the Monkees in 1987. (I was 16. Do the math yourself.) It was just a few weeks ago, however, that I watched a friend's copy of the "Weird Al" Yankovic Live DVD. I'd also seen it when it debuted on VH-1, so I pretty much knew what to expect.

You should also know that I used to be a regular volunteer at the Alabama Theatre from the mid-80s to mid-90s. Although I no longer live in B'ham, I am still in touch with the people who are in charge of the Alabama and my mother still volunteers there. Having Al perform there was a dream come true. (To find out more about the Alabama, a historic movie palace, visit www.alabamatheatre.com.)

I showed up at the Alabama just before 5:00 p.m., when there was supposed to be a sound check. However, the people at the Alabama had been told that the band and crew had been doing the tour for 14 months, so they didn't need to do one. As it turned out, Bermuda did show up and do some checks with the sound guy. It was fun to hear him warm up.

After he was finished, he talked to the sound guy some. I went and sat down front and waited patiently. (The sound board was on stage.) Eventually I got a chance to speak to him and get his autograph. I showed him around backstage (or should I say understage?) some. He invited me to come back after the show, but didn't have any passes, so he asked if I'd still have my backstage pass. I said yes, but I'd be with my wife and a friend, so he said we'd have to play it by ear.

Now we fast forward to the concert. The Alabama seats approximately 2200. Unfortunately, it was nowhere near a sell-out. There were 635 presale tickets sold, 55 walk-ups, and 90 complimentary tickets. Four hundred of those presales were in the first three days! After that, the rest only trickled in. The mezzanine was pretty much full, but no one sat in the balcony. The main floor was well covered, but not packed. Our tickets were dead center in the seventh row. Great for seeing the show, but not for getting to be close to Al.

The opening act was a (local, I think) comedian named Max Davis (or something like that). His mouth wasn't too foul, but he did mention drugs (specifically pot) several times. Needless to say, several mothers there with children complained. Al's management (or the promoter) had requested a clean comedian, of course. This had been the first question the Alabama staff asked when they called the Comedy Club. They had been told he was clean, but this is what they got. By and large, the comedian did seem to go over well with the audience.

After a short intermission, Al and the band came on. There's no need to tell you all the details, because you've read them before and can see the set list at http://www.weirdal.com/rwstour.htm. Oh, in case it hasn't been mentioned before, I will mention one thing. They now include clips from the "Celebrity Death Match" episode featuring Al during part of the show.

From a technical standpoint, the show went well for the most part. It seemed to me they didn't have Al's mike turned up loud enough at some points and it was sometimes difficult to hear and/or understand him while he was singing. For fans, this wasn't a problem during most of the songs because we already know the words. I did have a problem making out some of the unrecorded stuff, though. Also, my wife, who's not a big Al fan but had a good time anyway, had some comprehension problems. They also seemed to miss a mike cue on Steve singing "microscopic bacteria" during "Germs."

The lights and special effects were great. The smoke could be a little irritating when they overdid it a couple times. (I can't imagine how it is for the band.) The bubbles were fun and the snow was plentiful during "The Night Santa Went Crazy." (Another quick background point: my primary job at the Alabama was working the spotlight.) I don't know if the spotlight operators were local or part of the traveling crew. They did a decent job, but it could have been better. I noticed during one song one of them didn't have his spot high enough on Al. (It stopped around his chest.) Because the second spot was on him, I doubt anyone else noticed.

The crowd was enthusiastic, although I think they got moreso as the concert went on. Some people hung a bedsheet banner from the mezzanine saying "Al 4 Pres" during intermission. The group in front on house right was particularly rowdy. Things got a little out of control during Al's journey into the audience in "One More Minute." Some people were coming up front to touch him. When Al went to give the underwear to a lady on the front row, some guy snatched it and ran back to his seat. Al was back on stage at this point and tried to grab it back, but was unsuccessful. I feel sorry for the lady who didn't get the underwear. (I guess only an Al fan would understand that. 8)

Between two songs, Al said how nice it was "to be back in my home town, Birmingham, Alabama." He continued about how he'd wanted to make sure it was on the tour and asked his manager to "make sure it's the same night as the final episode of 'Survivor.'" This got some laughs, but before the show some of the Alabama Theatre people I talked to felt this might be part of the reason for the less than stellar attendance.

After "Fat," Al and the band, of course, got a standing ovation. The audience never sat down again, choosing to sway, clap, and sing along with "The Saga Begins" and "Yoda" encores. After that, most disperesed. A few stayed behind. After most people had left, Ruben came out, practically unobserved, and sat to talk with two ladies he apparently knew sitting two rows behind us. As he went out the lobby with them, my friend and got him to do some quick autographs. Jim had come out, been slightly mobbed, and disappeared again, during this time. I never saw him again, so he's the only band member whose autograph I didn't get.

At this point, my friend decided to leave since it was a long drive home for him and it increased my chances of meeting Al. I took my wife with me backstage. Unfortunately, it appears in trying to be courteous, I'd waited too long to go back. Down in the green room, I found it soley occupied by Steve, eating a bit of food and reading the paper. I hesitantly asked him if he knew where Bermuda was and got an autograph. I get the feeling he didn't like being bothered, but he didn't say anything or refuse the autograph.

He told me Bermuda was just down the hall. This time, thanks to borrowing my mother's keys, I was able to show him the organ console. He declined my invitation to also see an organ chamber, which is really one of the most interesting things to see. He said Al didn't have any guests tonight, so that wasn't a problem but he had disappeared. If Al was back on the bus, he told me, he couldn't make him come out. I understood, of course.

We all went out the stage door and found Al sitting on a stool on the sidewalk signing autographs for a long line of fans. We said goodbye to Bermuda and got in line. Slowly we moved up and I got to say a few words to Al, get his autograph, and a picture of me with him. I realized later I had stupidly missed my opportunities for a picture with Bermuda. (D'oh!)

I suppose I should say, I may have done some stupid looking things while showing Bermuda around. I was somewhat nervous and unfortunately I haven't been backstage in a few years. There have been some changes made that I either wasn't aware of or had forgotten. I also probably didn't make much sense to Al as I blathered on. Oh well, hopefully the short note I'd given to Bermuda earlier to give to him will make more sense.

I was conservative with my pictures because I didn't have an extra roll of film. If they come out, I'll eventually post them on my web site. Thanks to Al, the band, and the crew for a great show! And thanks to Bermuda for putting up with me. I hope you guys travel safely for the rest of the tour and get to come back sometime.