News Column

Tenacious D Rocks the Fox in Oakland

May 25, 2012

Jim Harrington

Tenacious D

It's amazing to think how long Tenacious D has been telling the same joke.

It's even more astounding, however, to realize how many fans still find that 18-year-old joke funny.

Tenacious D -- the comedic-rock duo formed by future Hollywood megastar Jack Black and East Bay native Kyle Gass in 1994 -- currently has the top-selling comedy album in the country. The record, the recently released "Rize of the Fenix," also happens to sit at No. 1 on the Billboard rock charts.

If you think that kind of overwhelming success would go to the players' heads, well, you'd be right.

"We are now officially the greatest band in the country," Black proclaimed during the sold-out Tenacious D show on Thursday at the Fox Theater in Oakland, Calif.

It's nice that we finally have an official ruling on this matter, since Tenacious D has been acting like "the greatest band in the country" at least since its eponymous debut came out in 2001.

And that's the charm -- as well as the shtick -- of Tenacious D.

Black and Gass are the least likely heavy metal heroes on the planet, armed with acoustic guitars and some of the most absurdly juvenile lyrics ever written. Yet, you'll never convince "JB" and "KG" -- as they refer to each other onstage -- that they're anything less than hard-rock gods.

It's a one-dimensional script, which really hasn't varied much in the roughly dozen years I've been watching Tenacious D, but the stars sell it with enthusiasm and sincerity. Although you know it's all a joke, it's still surprisingly touching to watch Black and Gass -- or, more accurately, their characters -- try so hard to be rock 'n' roll. Square pegs have never worked more diligently to fit into round holes.

Black and Gass looked rock 'n' roll fabulous as they made their entrance onstage wearing long, hooded, faux fur coats, which might have been swiped from some upcoming made-for-TV movie starring Cee Lo Green as a professional wrestler.

The duo, back by a solid three-piece band, then launched right into the title track of "Rize of the Fenix." The anthem served as notice to all those critics who thought the D was done, after the 2006 film "Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny" flopped, with Black promising that the band would rise again.

And to illustrate the point, a giant phoenix (or, in D terminology, "fenix") was inflated at the back of the stage. From there, things proceeded to get really silly.

A giant squid creature (aka, a guy in a rubber monster suit) would come out and terrorize the band. Thankfully, Black -- who is currently receiving some of the best reviews of his career for the film "Bernie" -- would chase the Sasquatch away with some type of Nerf gun.

But we weren't out of the woods yet. Sasquatch, believe it or not, would also show up and knock out the electric guitarist. The big-footed one then picked up the ax and played some hot licks. (Again, the Nerf gun came to the rescue.)

The evening was also a homecoming for Gass, who was born in Castro Valley and grew up in Walnut Creek. He even gave a shout out to his alma matter -- Las Lomas High School in Walnut Creek -- and his parents were also in attendance. Gass plays second fiddle (figuratively) to Black onstage, but his acoustic guitar work is top-notch.

The show drew to a close with some of Tenacious D's best-known songs, including "Tribute" and "Wonderboy." And just as the joke was beginning to feel a little old, the band left the stage.

Timing, as they say, is everything.



Source: (c) 2012 the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)