Sunday October 21st the historic Paramount Theatre in little old Rutland Vermont hosted Weird Al Yankovic in his Alpocalypse Tour. It was such a great night.
The Paramount originally opened in 1914 to host performances by such leading lights of the day as Will Rogers, Sarah Bernhardt, Ethel Barrymore, and The Great Houdini. After decades of changing with the entertainment tastes of the times, the Theatre closed in 1975. Over the next 20 years, devoted Rutland theatre supporters raised the money to renovate the theatre and return it to its former glory. It reopened in March 2000, lovingly restored to seat 838 patrons in an intimate performance space, with main floor, loge, balcony and box seating. The current season includes performances by Bruce Hornsby, Ron White, Travis Tritt, Arlo Guthrie, Tap Dogs and of course, Weird Al.
Watching the audience arrive before the show was an interesting study in the diverse fans Weird Al attracts; there were the over-50 ex- (or not so ex-) hippies, the local personalities like the mayor and the radio host, and the young geeks, nerds and Goths. As curtain time approached, the theatre filled to near-capacity. It looked like it was a sold-out show, with only a handful of seats belonging to no-shows.
And then the Man and the Band arrived onstage. Weird Al, in one of his signature almost-Hawaiian shirts (this one featuring pandas) with his accordion, Steve Jay on bass, Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz on drums, Jim West on guitar and Rubén Valtierra on keyboards (Steve, Jim and Bermuda have been with Weird Al from the beginning). The audience response was deafening.
It quickly became apparent that all five men, and even the silver-bearded roadie with the harmonica, were loving the intimacy of the venue. They weren’t just playing music, they were playing the audience, and the audience played right back at them. The energy was high, flashing back and forth between the stage and the floor. It hit a crescendo during “Wanna B Ur Lovr”, when Al, in a red tiger-striped suit, first went right to edge of the proscenium and sang to one audience member, eyes locked on her, and then descended into the audience. He sat on laps, climbed over seats, perched on box rails. When he sang to one woman about biting her ass, she stood up and offered it.
No one grabbed for him, no one interfered with his progress at all. It was wonderful to see a theatre full of enthusiastic fans who respected the artist.
It was a full two hour show. During the performance of “Perform This Way” with Weird Al in a peacock suit, the giant screen at the back of the stage showed images of the music video, where he parodied Lady Gaga’s costumes. Now that screen had been an integral part of the show throughout. Besides displaying images during the songs, they ran videos of Weird Al “interviewing” various entertainers and clips from shows that mentioned/featured Weird Al over the years while the Man and sometimes the Band were off-stage changing costumes.
The last number was “Fat”, with Weird Al in the full fat suit and makeup. Now we were sitting close enough to the stage, in one of the proscenium boxes, to be able to see that as fast as that makeup had been applied, it was flawless. The fatty jowls and multiple chin prosthetics were seamless. Sorry, I’m an old theatre teacher, and tech, like makeup and costumes, were one of my specialties… so I get impressed by perfect quick-change artistry.
After Weird Al said goodnight, Jim West riffed into an amazing guitar solo. The other band members wandered over to him, and stood or sat listening before finally wandering away off stage. Jim finished and left the stage… and the audience waited, clapping its collective hands sore, while two dim fresnels flashed over the stage… we knew there was an encore coming.
Rubén Valtierra returned to the stage, dressed in a black monk’s habit, played with the audience for a bit and then launched into “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor”. The rest of the band filtered back out, dressed as Jedi knights. As the keyboard solo finished, Weird Al arrived back, to invite us in with the poignant “The Saga Begins”. The audience joined in on the choruses, before it segued into “Yoda”. That ended the show, to a standing ovation from a grinning, grateful crowd.
This gallery features amateur photos taken at the concert (in spite of the small print warning in the program that we weren’t supposed to do this) by myself, Chris Baker and Allie Pomykala. We are also responsible for the uncredited concert photos above. Our thanks to Chris and Allie for freely contributing.
We’ll finish up with a few video walks down memory lane…
White and Nerdy
Perform This Way
The Saga Begins