Show Review: Tenacious D with The Sights at Fox Theater, 5/24/2012

by Stacy Scales on May 26, 2012

Kyle Gass and Jack Black. Or, as we like to call them, Tenacious D.

If you search my iTunes account for “Jack Black,” you’ll find results in two separate areas: comedy films like School of Rock, and hidden in the music of a band known as Tenacious D. Their music has the distinction of being the only band on my entire iPod listed with the genre I call “comedy rock.” But the truth is, I never paid the band much mind. See, I love Mr. Black’s movies, and frankly I quite like everything I’ve seen of him as well. I’ve noticed over the years that he’s got a pretty great voice, too, which is how I came to acquire these Tenacious D albums. But the truth is, I’ve never really listened to them. I’m not sure why, but there’s the truth. So when I noticed they were headed my way (The Fox Theater in Oakland, to be exact) this week (Thursday night) promoting their newest album, Rize of the Fenix, I couldn’t pass up the chance to finally check out this band loud and live, the way I suspected they’re best experienced.

I spent the day prepping by listening to these deliciously fun records and got myself to the venue in plenty of time to await the opener: The Sights. It seems it could be a bit tricky to find a band that fits the bill to open for Tenacious D, but what the hell did I know? I knew one great song by the Sights, “Fool (I Can’t Stop Making Out with You)” from their current release, Left Over Right, and liked what I’d heard. When they took the stage though, I was unprepared. Throughout their set, I couldn’t shake comparisons in my head to classic rock bands, yet they have a distinctly modern feel. I made a note that said “classic rock meets 21st century” and went back to enjoying the music. The band’s full sound is thanks in part to its many musical elements, which surpass the basic drums/bass/guitar trio by adding keyboards, saxophone, tambourine, and even a sick harmonica solo from the front man. I particularly liked a song called “Mercy,” and between songs, lead singer Eddie paused to say hello, saying that they had a few more for us, “and then I think you guys know what’s going on…”

The next two songs, “Left Over Right” and the aforementioned “Fool” were enough to put this band’s album at the top of my to-buy list. My only gripe is with myself, and it’s that I couldn’t put my finger on which classic rock band(s) in particular they reminded me of. I thought briefly maybe it was a little Steve Miller Band, or The Who. Maybe it’s Iron Butterfly, or maybe that was just the organ. In the end it didn’t really matter. All I know is that I thought they were great, and well-seasoned performers. They know how to make a rowdy, antsy crowd happy, and I can only imagine that’s no small feat.

The Sights

While I waited for the headliner to take the stage, I surveyed the crowd, surprised to see age groups from teens to forties present. In my mind, there was no “typical” Tenacious D fan; I had no idea what to expect from the crowd (though thanks to my afternoon of research, I had a good idea what to expect from the act themselves). It should have surprised me little that when they did come out amid much fanfare, they were decked out in silly fur coats – but just for a minute. The set opened as the new album does, with “Rize of the Fenix.” Let’s stop right here and talk for just a sec about this “fenix.” If you find a cover of this album that hasn’t been blurred out, you’ll see this bird of sorts as “nature” and Jack Black intended. Before me at the Fox, I saw it all lit up, massive in size, in all its phallic glory. Sure, it might have giant inflatable wings that somehow remind me a bit of the WuTang Clan’s “W” logo, but look closer and you have two choices: be offended, or laugh with the rest of us. More on this later, though.

The "fenix" is best viewed from a safe distance...

After the opening song, both Kyle and Jack seemed impressed with the crowd’s energy, calling the audience “compelling,” “fetching,” “good looking,” and most memorably, noting that we were decidedly “not Santa Barbara!” Up next came “Low Hangin’ Fruit,” after which Kyle remarked, “damn, it smells good out there!” And there you have it: just two songs in and we’ve already covered sex, drugs, and of course plenty of rock & roll. After some crazy feedback from the microphones, they began “Senorita” before pausing so that Jack could announce that they are currently #1 on the rock chart, insisting, “I don’t really care about this shit…” but that officially, they were the greatest band, having outsold Zeppelin, the Beatles, and the Stones. He didn’t want to toot his own horn, he insisted. He’d actually rather “toot someone else’s horn;” he went on to say that it was all about something much more important: “it’s about the planet, yo.” This, a clever segue into the hilarious “Deth Starr,” complete with a dancing alien onstage.

As the audience cheered while a roadie poured water from a bottle into Jack’s mouth, Jack introduced him to the crowd, who roared their appreciation back at him. The next song was dedicated to “allllllll the roadies out there.” The song, of course, was “The Roadie,” and “Throwdown” came next. After a bit more noisy feedback from the microphones, the band stopped to read signs held up in the crowd. “What do you wanna do?” Jack asked Kyle. Eventually they decided that a “saxophone would be good!” Almost instantly, a toy one appeared onstage and was handed to Jack, who “played” it, revealing a great little beat and melody. The crowd loved it, though, and Jack struck a proud pose when he’d finished with it. Within the first few bars of the next song, “Kielbasa,” a roar of recognition had risen up from the floor. The best part of the song, for me, was when the whole room chants, “I’ll tell you what time it is; it’s Tenacious D time, you mothafucka, go!”

The next song, Jack said, was dedicated to Seventh Heaven, where he said he’d had an “incredible yoga session.” The audience laughed as they played “Kickapoo,” and when it had finished, Kyle and Jack stared each other down with an intensity. Far enough away from the microphone that it didn’t pick up his voice, Jack began to yell at Kyle, who says, “what are you talking about?!” into his own mic. Jack apologized, saying that the song is usually perfect, but “somebody fucked it up right at the end!” Though he insisted “we forgive you” and tried to move onto the next song, Kyle stormed off the stage. The crowd booed, and Jack tries to cajole his friend back out. “Did he leave the building?!” Jack asked. “It happened again. No amount of chanting will bring him back now…” Jack began playing “Dude (I Totally Miss You)” by himself, and right on cue, Kyle came back out to join him as the crowd ate it up. As the song concluded, they embraced strangely, as though concerned about keeping a “safe distance,” and did an odd little sort of bow. Next came “Kyle Quit the Band” and “Friendship,” followed by multiple requests shouted out from the crowd. “Haven’t you learned by now? The D does not take requests,” Jack explained. “The destiny is in place. Shout if you must the songs you’d like to hear, but we will play only what we want you to hear…”

After a bit about the best kind of rock & roll – the one with “the most fucking balls,” Jack declared: “the answer is metal!” The next song, of course, was “The Metal.” As it finished, the two conferred with the crowd from both sides of the stage as well as the center before running out of sight and reappearing, shouting, “the metal!!” When Jack informed that Kyle’s parents were in attendance, he asked us all to “respect the blue hairs: they could be Kyle’s parents.” Next came a bit about Sasquatch and a shout out to Walnut Creek, though I honestly must have missed how or why that fit into the Sasquatch conversation. Anyway, Jack insisted that Sasquatch sightings are “very rare. If you see it, count yourself among the lucky.” This led to “Sasquatch,” which was made even more fun by a man in a furry suit darting around behind the guys onstage as they feign obliviousness. Eventually, though, “Sasquatch” had a guitar and joined Kyle for an awesome little jam session mid-song. “That couldn’t be a man in a gorilla suit,” Jack insisted. “Now you know Sasquatch is real!” After asking for applause for Sasquatch, Jack continued, “he truly is a beast of mystery and wonder. And he’s vanished once again. Count yourselves among the lucky ones!”

"Sasquatch" on guitar

As soon as “Wonderboy” began, another cheer arose from the crowd, who sang every line. Jack shushed the crowd, asking if the electric guitar player had been acting strange lately. Music reminiscent of The Twilight Zone began to play as Jack wondered if he might be possessed. “By who?” Kyle asked. “By Satan!” During the next song, “Beelzeboss,” possessed electric guitar player John showed off some great vocals. Next came a personal highlight for me, a glorious cover of The Who’s “Pinball Wizard,” and then “Tribute,” where once again the crowd sang along to every word.

“Kage, have you enjoyed rocking the audience here?” Jack asked.
“I have,” Kyle answered. “They’re such a good audience.”
“It’s so good, it compares to sex,” Jack mused. “Rocking, fucking, it’s one and the same to some people.” He admitted that it was a physical impossibility to fuck the whole room at the same time the way they could rock one, because “there’s too many of you. I know you want us. I’m sorry I cannot. I wish I could extend our love juice not only to everyone in this audience, but all the nation…” The song that followed was one, as you might expect by the lead-in, about sex. Unfortunately, it was one I didn’t know and I never did catch its title, but as it wrapped up, Jack introduced the members of the backing band, which included some amazing solos, particularly from John the electric guitarist and drummer Brooks.

After thanking the crowd and the city of Oakland, Jack wanted to “pay tribute,” which included all kinds of funny and awesome vocalizations, including a quick bit of yodeling, before the “fenix” rose, spewing confetti out into the crowd, and promptly went limp as Tenacious D left the stage. The crowd, not ready to leave, began to chant, “D! D! D! D!” The lights came back up to reveal what’s left of the “fenix:” where once there was a giant penis, a giant vagina had begun to glow in its place. And how else would Tenacious D choose to make their grand re-entrance onto the stage but by coming out of it? The encore consisted of “Warning,” and then Jack announced that the “last song goes out to the ladies,” but that he was “singing to all the guys.” The song, “Fuck Her Gently,” was a crowd favorite, and brought down the house. When they’d finished it, Kyle and Jack gathered up big handfuls of confetti from the stage, threw them out to the crowd, and climbed back into the ahem, orifice from whence they’d come.

"Fenix" stage two

To say the least, a Tenacious D show is nothing like any show I’ve ever seen before. Sex, drugs, plenty of rock, and comedy? Where has this band been all my life? It was certainly a good time, and all night I kept noticing how devoted the fans were. One song makes a reference to fans with “D tattoos,” and I’m absolutely certain there were several in attendance. I’m not even entirely sure what it is about this band that makes its fans love them as fiercely as it seems to me that they do, but let’s not forget that this week, at least, they’re the greatest rock & roll band in the world. And that’s gotta count for something.

Stacy Scales

California native. Word nerd. Music lover. Linguaphile. Amateur foodie. Basketball junkie. Travel enthusiast. Future therapist.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Brent212 May 26, 2012 at 10:57 am

How do you not know Double Team?? It’s the best D song…. other than maybe City Hall. You are forgiven, but as penance, you need to go listen to it 20 times in a row.

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Charlotte May 26, 2012 at 9:40 pm

hahah this show looks awesome. the D’s new album is a masterpiece! been listening to it all week. Check out Low Hangin’ Fruit http://www.vevo.com/watch/tenacious-d/low-hangin-fruit/USSM21200297#/

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Parvin July 8, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Just found this article while looking for a review of last nights show in Chicago. July 7, 2012 at the Aragon Ballroom. Still haven’t found that but enjoyed your review and description of the crash course prep.

The show in Chicago was the same. Really great. For me and my wife, the D brings back a lite-hearted view of music that is fun and doesn’t take itself seriously. We are exhausted from the b.s. in music today and the baseless bravado of the youth. The D loudly proclaims… “I’m a fast middle aged bastard with an acoustic guitar and me and my fat friend are going to rock your fuckin socks off!” and they do.

For those others new to the D check out Kyle and John’s guitar tutorials on YouTube. Hysterical and educational. Oh and Stacy. It’s a Saxaboom…

Cheers from Chicago!

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