Following the box-office bomb of Tenacious D’s 2006 movie The Pick of Destiny, the future of the band looked uncertain at best. Fortunately for fans, partners in crime Jack Black and Kyle Gass achieved a triumphant return with their 2012 release Rize of the Fenix. This comeback effect is evident in their live performance tonight; both Black and Gass are full of energy and confidence, bringing the laughs and hard-rocking tunes in equal portions.
Tenacious D’s latest Australian outing marks a return to the original ‘old-school acoustic’ style that got them started nearly 20 years ago. This stripped-back approach demonstrates the musical talent of Black and Gass; with just two acoustic guitars and Black’s powerful vocals, the duo achieves a bigger and ballsier sound than what hard rock fans are likely to hear around the traps. Concert and album opener ‘Rize of the Fenix’ packs a punch and the mid-set bluesy cover of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Rock and Roll’ is an impressive rendition for even the most prudish of Zeppelin fans. It’s this musical prowess that continues to draw crowds for Tenacious D, maintaining the song’s impact after the lyrical humour wears off.
Of course, there’s no shortage of laughs at this concert either. Black and Gass’s double act routine shows no sign of going stale; their frequent banter and exaggerated rockstar egos have the audiences laughing relentlessly. Making full use of their acting backgrounds, the duo liven up the performance with comical theatrics between and during the songs. This reaches its highpoint as Gass ‘spontaneously’ quits the band due to Black’s abusive comments. Following Black’s heartfelt rendition of ‘Dude I Totally Miss You’, Gass returns to the stage and hugs his bandmate in the ultimate display of bromance. Supporting acts Sasquatch (not the band, the actual Sasquatch), Australian comedian Damien Power and long-time collaborator/roadie John Spiker also appear throughout the night, the latter usually serving as the punch-line for Black’s satirical putdowns.
However, it becomes clear that the Palais Theatre might not be the ideal venue for Tenacious D. Due to the allocated seating the audience is divided on whether to stand or stay seated. About a quarter of the crowd is made up of devoted fans, determined to stand up and rock their socks off for the whole nine yards. Another quarter consists of ticket holders who refuse to take their bums off their seats for anything, barring a fire. The remaining half float somewhere in between, conforming to the wishes of the more aggressive factions. This arrangement is frustrating for both parties; hardcore fans are forced to sit wherever their ticket allocates them as less enthused audience members frequently ask them to sit down and unblock their view.
On the bright side, this tension does lead into the funniest exchanges between the band and the ticket holders; both Black and Gass make light-hearted jibes at the indecisiveness of the audience and react with mock-astonishment when everyone eventually gets out of their seat. Unsurprisingly, the crowd pleasing ‘Tribute’ proves to be a concert-highlight as every voice in the theatre roars the lyrics with deafening claps and cheers. Moments such as this show how much better the gig could have been if the audience were able to match the energy of the performance for the entire duration. Tenacious D still have the magic, but a general admission venue is needed for the fans to make the most of these comedy rock’n’rollers.