Gig review: Tenacious D at O2 Academy Leeds

Jack Black of Tenacious D at O2 Academy Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff
Jack Black of Tenacious D at O2 Academy Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff
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Before the pseudo-rock stylings of Cage and J.B. (or ‘The D’ to their adoring fans) we are treated to the rare delight of not only witnessing a Big Foot, but also watching it play Black Betty (changed to Black Yeti) and bang on a drum kit with its hands. Sasquatch is an absurd opener, but sets the tone for the evening.

For a comedy gig, Tenacious D play it pretty straight. There are brief moments of rehearsed theatrics in which the duo have an early off-mic argument, prompting Kyle Gass to storm off stage as a precursor to Jack Black singing Kyle Quit the Band. But for the most part they play their self-referential novelty rock with conviction, which acts to draw further attention towards the elephant in the room: which is the fact that, despite all of their larking about, Black has a formidable vocal range and stage presence, and Gass is a brilliant guitar player.

For nearly 20 years the duo have maintained the central conceit of being proud, semi-delusional claimants to Led Zeppelin’s mantle, despite obviously being two schlubby middle-aged guys who look more like roadies than rock gods. Visually, the joke still works, whilst their lyrical lampooning of classic rock’s more absurd fantasy elements is a masterful stroke which serves them well (the song Wonderboy still being the best example).

The secondary conceit belongs to the dynamic within the band. Gass plays the long suffering target of Black’s childlike superiority, and very much the fall guy to his wisecracking idiocy. But, as Black readily points out during a particularly rare earnest moment, “The Rolling Stones were still writing hits when we started.” It’s a backhanded way of saying there is much more to the bromance than their on-stage personas are letting on.

Essentially, they write great, foul-mouthed songs about sex and food and rock and roll, and tonight’s beaming Academy crowd shout all the words as if The D are every bit as important as they pretend to be. The irony is surely not lost on them. After all, they only came to kick some ass.

Gig date: December 16

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