10 August 2016

2016 Weird Al Huntsville Concert Report

The opening of "Foil"
It was Friday, June 17, 2016. My older boys were on a church trip to Germany, leaving my wife and I with the younger two. We'd hoped to leave them and a pair of friends who were babysitting at home while we had time for a leisurely dinner before the concert. This was not to be, however, and we wound up grabbing food from a Taco Bell drive-through before heading to the Von Braun Center Concert Hall.

The line ahead of us
We walked down from the parking deck about 20 minutes to show time, only to find a line going all the way back from the door to the sidewalk. It quickly grew to go all the way down to the corner after we got in line and it was obvious the concert would not be starting on time. It turned out they were having everyone go through metal detectors and that was the slow down. Possibly the recent shooting at an Orlando gay night club was to blame. But eventually we got in with plenty more people still outside behind us.

The line behind us
The concert started with "Tacky." Al was actually out back in a courtyard on the north side of the civic center. They had a video camera and screen set up so they could do a single shot of him walking/dancing/singing all the way into the venue. At one point he passed Jim West with his guitar in the hall. Also along the way were a couple of cheerleaders for the later "Smells Like Nirvana" performance and a guy that Al violently shoved down who then had to lay still until he was out of the shot. I'm curious whose job that is or if they select a fan from the VIP package for it. Seems too important to leave to that, though. Finally Al entered through a door on house right and went up on stage to finish the song to much applause.

At first many people remained standing. Ironically, I'd read a comment in the "Close Personal Friends of Al" Facebook group not many days before about how polite Al fans are, sitting down through most of his concerts. Some people had to stand back up because of those in front of them. Finally someone got the message through and everyone sat down.

"Word Crimes"
The concert went much as the previous ones I've been to have, but obviously with new songs from Mandatory Fun. The new part was an "unplugged" session where Al and the band sat down and sang some of his songs -- definitely parodies but I think some originals too -- to new tunes. I'd previously heard the new renditions of "Eat It" and "Gonna Buy Me a Condo" online, but the rest were new to me, so that was cool.

After the show, we went around back to see if Al would do an autograph session. I was a little dubious because of the new VIP packages that include a meet and greet before the concert. This concern turned out to be well-founded, as there was not a trace of Al or Bermuda near the band's buses the entire time we waited.

What we did get, however, was a lot of time with Rubén, Al's keyboard player. He regaled us with several tales. One was on how he got the job of being in Al's band. I forget the details, but apparently his audition was on a platform. Near the end, he fell off backwards, which was not supposed to be part of the act. Everyone went racing to check on him, only to discover he'd placed a lot of pillows to land on and had staged the whole thing. He's pretty sure this is why he was selected.

There were also lots of tales of concerts he'd attended in his youth that one could scarcely afford to attend today. (Even if all those artists were still alive and performing, although many are.)

Rubén talking to fans
At one point Rubén asked the small crowd who'd been to the oldest Weird Al concert. I quickly spoke up with "1987," Al's tour opening for the Monkees, which was the winner (even pre-dating Rubén as part of the band). He then spotted the shirt I was wearing from Al's 2000 tour. It featured the entire band with Rubén standing in the background holding a large janitor's broom. He explained that he'd come up with the idea for that shirt and that Al hadn't planned to include him in the shoot otherwise.

I used the opportunity to ask, "Do you miss the cone bra?" There was a period of time when Al and the band performed "Like a Surgeon" to the newer, middle-eastern arrangement of Madonna's "Like a Virgin," complete with Rubén wearing a fake boob top and messing around on a bed, although thankfully not as sexually as Madonna's 1990 tour. Rubén was selected because he was "the new guy" of the band.

He replied, "No. I had it put in my contract that I never have to do that again."

During our time with Rubén, Steve Jay did come by very briefly and thank us for coming. Jim West just waved to us as he was getting on the bus.

Finally, at I'm not sure what time, security came out and told us Al was already on his way to his next concert and both Al's management and the VBC would like us to leave. (One of the security people was actually a retired HPD officer I knew, but he didn't notice me.) I was skeptical of the statement Al had already left, but there was nothing to be gained by hanging around if they didn't want us to be there, so we went home. And in Al's defense, he did have a concert in North Carolina the next night. I'm 3 for 5 in seeing Al after his concerts now.

During the concert I'd come up with the question to ask Al if I saw him. Steve Goodie released a "Weird Al Country Medley" on the FuMP the previous month, saying he planned to present Al with a copy of it during his Nashville concert, which had been the night before. (A repeat of something Steve had managed to do the year before.) I was going to ask Al if he'd had a chance to listen and what he thought.

I messaged Steve this on Facebook the next day. It turned out he'd been unable to meet Al because the backstage guest list was restricted. I said that I was kind of glad I'd missed Al then, because I would have just looked stupid. Steve replied, "I know what you mean!"