At a sold-out Fox Theatre Saturday night, “Weird Al” Yankovic noted that one of his motives for doing his “Strings Attached” tour was to play a song he’d never done in concert before: “I felt like we couldn’t really do it justice unless we performed it with a 41-piece symphony orchestra,” he said.
As luck — and contractual obligations — would have it, Yankovic happened to have onstage with him just such a group: the Fox Theatre Orchestra, made up entirely of local players.
The song they performed — “completely unabridged, in its full glory,” Yankovic pointed out — was “Harvey the Wonder Hamster.” All 20 seconds of it.
It goes to show that sometimes even the most extravagant dreams can come true.
But seriously, now.
The idea of pairing Yankovic’s parody music with a symphony orchestra might seem like an elaborate joke gone too far.
But with symphony orchestras turning to rock, pop and hip-hop music to beef up their schedules, and major acts like the Who touring symphonic shows, the time seems right for Yankovic to make the leap, too.
Saturday’s show began with a brief orchestral set of popular movie themes. Once Yankovic emerged, it was for the only bit of the night that kind of misfired: A swinging, Vegas-style medley of a trio of his classic parodies, “I Lost on Jeopardy,” “I Love Rocky Road” and “Like a Surgeon.”
Yankovic used the orchestra to better advantage, though, on some of his original songs, such as “The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota,” the wonderfully twisted “Jackson Park Express” and “One More Minute,” which found him working the crowd like Elvis, draping scarves over audience members and — less Elvis-like, perhaps — giving another fan his underwear.
Even better were some of his parodies, especially “Word Crimes,” which turns Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” into a desperately needed grammar lesson; and “Tacky,” which found Yankovic once again working the crowd and borrowing the tin foil hat worn by one fan.
The highlight of the night, though, was “Jurassic Park,” a take-off of Jimmy Webb’s epic “MacArthur Park.” It’s one of Yankovic’s sharpest parodies and its sweeping arrangement took full advantage of the symphony orchestra. The hilarious Claymation video that accompanied it was icing on that mysterious cake from the original song.
Yankovic’s shows often feature numerous costume changes, but this time he saved them all for the show’s conclusion. “Smells Like Nirvana,” the Devo-like “Dare to Be Stupid,” “White & Nerdy” and “Amish Paradise” were interspersed with video clips of everyone from Johnny Carson to “The Simpsons” to the cast of “Veep” riffing on Weird Al, proving just how deeply — and for how long — he’s infiltrated the culture.
As if there were any doubt.
The encore was an all-“Star Wars” affair, complete with stormtroopers, Darth Vader and R2D2. Yankovic sang “The Saga Begins,” his retelling of the movies’ story set to “American Pie.” After the orchestra played the familiar movie theme, he wrapped up the show with “Yoda.”
It was the only song of the night on which Yankovic played the accordion.