You might notice a couple of hits missing this summer from “Weird Al” Yankovic‘s Strings Attached Tour — his first trek playing with a full orchestra.
The Grammy Award-winning humorist has dropped his pair of well-known Michael Jackson parodies — “Eat It” (“Beat It”) and “Fat” (“Bad”) from the set this time out, in the wake of HBO’s Leaving Neverland documentary and the controversy that followed. “I don’t know if that’s going to be permanent or not,” Yankovic tells Billboard, “but we just felt that with what’s happened recently with the HBO documentaries, we didn’t want anybody to feel uncomfortable. I felt I had enough fan favorites in the show that I could get away with it. I haven’t gotten a lot of pushback; There have been some people who have expressed disappointment, but we decided to err on the side of not offending people.”
It does, however, waive of him of the responsibility for putting on the oversized “Fat” suit during shows in the summer heat. “It’s still in storage,” Yankovic says, “so it may come back some day. We’ll see.”
Meanwhile, Yankovic is enjoying the trek, inspired by his 2016 concerts at the Hollywood Bowl with the venue’s orchestra. “It was just an overwhelming experience,” Yankovic recalls. “I remember I got a little teary-eyed at one point, performing my Star Wars songs with this huge orchestra. I felt like I was inside the movie, and I told my manager afterwards, ‘This is so great. Could we put together a whole tour like this?’ And we managed to do it.”
Don’t expect to see him donning a tuxedo and waving a baton, though. “I’m going to have more respect for our actual conductor and let him do the job,” he says.
The Strings Attached Tour is part of an eventful year for Yankovic — coming 40 years after Dr. Demento gave him his first hit by playing “My Bologna” (“My Sharona”) on his syndicated radio show. Coming on the heels of last year’s “Hamilton Polka,” Yankovic won his fifth Grammy Award earlier this year, for the art direction of his box set Squeeze Box. Besides the tour this year, Yankovic says he has another movie and TV show in development, though the parody songs are coming “at a much slower pace than I used to.”
“I’ll get back into it at some point,” Yankovic promises. “Every now and then a song will capture the zeitgeist and I’ll think, ‘Oh, I should do something with this.’ Then I think, ‘Eh, well maybe not.’ I don’t feel compelled to be as obsessed with the Billboard charts as I used to be. If a great idea strikes I’ll certainly take advantage of it, but I’m not forcing myself to be creative, which I have done a few times in the past.”