By Matt Albers
Love them or hate them, there are few who are completely unaware of the comedy rock duo of actors Jack Black and Kyle Gass, more commonly known as Tenacious D. With members as recognizable as their over-the-top music, as well as their corresponding HBO television series and feature film The Pick Of Destiny, to know Tenacious D is also to know the dedication of their fans. However, while The D has sustained a notable and impressive fan following, due to the other endeavors of its two members, it is not often that the duo is able to work strictly on music. So a new Tenacious D album comes out only every few years or so, and therefore, so does the opportunity for The D to tour in support of new material. Foturnately, with the May 2012 release of the third full-length Tenacious D album Rize Of The Fenix, St. Louis was treated to the first show from The D since they headlined and hosted 105.7 KPNT’s Pointfest in 2002.
The July 23 date of the tour stopped in St. Louis at The Pageant in the Delmar Loop. The March 2012 announcement of the show was so well-received, that tickets sold out in less than 24 hours, resulting in the venue increasing its capacity and selling more tickets. In addition to the Pageant show, Black and Gass also held a small acoustic set at the famous St. Louis record store Vintage Vinyl, located just down the Delmar Loop from The Pageant. To open the show, many may have thought that Tenacious D would pick another comedic-based act, such as Psychostick or Steel Panther (who would play a headlining set at The Pageant later during the same week). Instead, patrons were treated to the surprise of Detroit, Michigan’s 1960’s/70’s-era garage rock throwback, The Sights. With classic rock-influenced jams and exaggerated mannerisms, all supported by a keyboardist and saxophonist, most fans appreciated a confident, polished performance. Further, it would make just as much sense if not more for a band like The Sights to open for Tenacious D. While they didn’t take themselves too seriously, they also showed talent and musical integrity; two qualities that can be applied to The D themselves.
After the brief opening set from The Sights, the lights dimmed as Kyle Gass and Jack Black took the stage, donning robes decorated with spacey, sci-fi resembling lights, and began the opening to the title track to their album, Rize Of The Fenix. As they played, the duo was joined by their supporting band mates on electric guitar, bass, and drums. And as the song progressed, an inflatable phallic Fenix resembling the latest album’s cover artwork rose up at the back of the stage, sending the crowd into a frenzy of hilarity. From this promising opening, Tenacious D proceeded to continue their set by doing what so many fans wished more bands would do: play their latest material first and get it out of the way. The next five songs played were all from Rize Of The Fenix, which were accompanied by skit interludes coinciding with the song themes; including tormenting their road crew before introducing “Roadie” and blasting one of said crew members dressed as “an evil alien squid” with a Nerf gun during “Deth Starr.”
The group of new material officially ended with, what Black described as, a taste of The D’s next project: an extended “improvised” jazz jam. This led in perfectly to the signature “Saxaboom,” with Gass dancing along to Black playing an electronic toy saxophone. After this fan favorite, songs from the two previous Tenacious D albums began and carried the set into the remainder of the evening, including “Kielbasa,” “Kickapoo,” “The Metal,” and “Wonderboy.” In typical Tenacious D fashion, Black and Gass acted out a skit in which they argued with one another on stage, leading to Gass quitting the band, only to have Black pursue and beg Gass to rejoin once again (spoiler alert: he did…this time). This skit was tied together by the three songs any fan would expect to accompany it, in the following logical order: “Dude (I Totally Miss You),” “Kyle Quit The Band,” and “Friendship.”
On stage antics accompanied other songs as well, including the “rocksorcizisng” of the demon which possessed their electric guitar player during “Beelzeboss (The Final Showdown).” Toward the end of the set, the band’s staple “Tribute” followed a medley of song segments from The Who’s rock opera, Tommy. In typical rock show fashion, The D saved the best for last. The closing song of their set, “Double Team,” was extended to feature solos from each of the five musicians on stage, showcasing the undeniable talent of each member, including the three backup members (their bassist being arguable the most impressive). At the end of “Double Team,” no one could have predicted that the giant phallic Fenix would tilt forward, and spray white confetti and compressed air on the audience. After this prop deflated and the band left the stage, the giant wings of the Fenix revealed (you guessed it) a giant vagina in which Black and Gass utilized to take the stage once again for three songs performed only by the duo. While the first encore song, “Baby,” came as a bit of a surprise, it was not nearly as surprising as the rare fan favorite “Jesus Ranch,” which Black stated that a couple from the Vintage Vinyl meet-and-greet earlier in the day allegedly requested. Unsurprisingly, Black and Gass ended their night in St. Louis with the one and only “Fuck Her Gently.”
A long-awaited return to St. Louis by Tenacious D was met with as much passion, enthusiasm, and satisfaction as one would expect. Of course, as with just about any concert, there were songs that the band could have played, but were left out either for time or to make room for newer material. Songs like “Explosivo,” “Dio,” “Lee,” “The Road,” “Rock Your Socks,” “Classico,” “History,” or “Master Exploder” would all have been crowd pleasers. It also would have been fitting for them to play either “City Hall” or “The Government Totally Sucks” on a tour during an election year. Whether seeing them for the first time or one of many, the set during this tour was just about the perfect live Tenacious D experience for all.