Concert preview: Career-spanning box set leads Weird Al on a trek down memory lane

Andy Downing, Columbus Alive

"Weird Al" Yankovic wouldn't classify himself as the nostalgic type.

"I don't normally [look back] unmotivated," he said in a late June phone interview. But assemblingSqueeze Box, a 15-album career retrospective due out sometime next year, presented the comic musician a rare opportunity to revisit his entire discography, stretching from his eponymous 1983 debut through to his most recent release,Mandatory Fun, from 2014.

"It was a nice little trip down memory lane for me. It brought back a lot of memories of where my head was at back when I was first writing and recording," said Yankovic, who visits Palace Theatre for a concert on Wednesday, July 6. "To be in a recording studio and to put out a record - that was amazing to me, because I didn't think I'd ever have a career doing anything as unusual as show business. I was always a very adult-minded kid, and I was always a nerdy, straight-A kid. I thought I would grow up and have a respectable, adult job."

The process of reviewing material for the box set also served as a nice reminder of how far he's come both as a singer and a musician. "I hear some of the really early stuff and I think, 'Ooh, a little flat on that one. A little pitchy on this one,'" he said, and laughed. "There's a certain charm to that, but it's a little bit difficult for me to listen to. It's sort of like looking at embarrassing old baby pictures."

Over the course of his three-plus decades in the limelight, Yankovic has proven himself adept at reinvention, emerging every few years or so with a new batch of parodies that serve as generational guideposts. For most, it's fair to say the Weird Al encountered in those early teenage years is the first that springs to mind today, be it the Michael Jackson-aping, late-'80s Al ofEven Worse or the "White & Nerdy" hip-hop parodist that surfaced onStraight Outta Lynwood, from 2006.

"Which is very fun, because when you go to the live show it's a very multigenerational audience, and you can see everybody is enjoying the show on a slightly different level," Yankovic said. "The younger kids are into the more current material, and then when I dip into the '80s catalog, some of the parents perk up a little bit."

Yankovic's humor - clever and playful rather than off-color or mean-spirited - has remained remarkably consistent dating back to his college days at California Polytechnic State University, where he first started performing at a weekly coffeehouse open mic, delivering ridiculous accordion numbers like "A Medley of Every Song Ever Written in the History of the World" between singer-songwriter types "who would come up with their acoustic guitars and play their Dan Fogelberg covers."

That more straightforward approach never suited the musician, who adopted the Weird Al moniker as a college radio DJ - "Because, frankly, I was a little weird," he said - and continued to own it as his profile grew.

"I just thought, 'That name will work for the time being,' and … it stuck for the rest of my life," Yankovic said. "And the really nice thing is, I've heard from kids who got bullied or picked on in school because they were a little different or weird [that said] the fact I was basically empowered by the name 'Weird' gave them a little hope, like, 'Here's a guy that's a little different and a little freaky, and he's embracing that. Maybe I'll be OK.'"

Palace Theatre

8 p.m. Wednesday, July 6

34 W. Broad St., Downtown