Tenacious D at The Academy, Dublin – Photos & Review
Tenacious D played The Academy, Dublin last night, December 17th.
Tenacious D played The Academy on Tuesday, their first acoustic show in Dublin since a support set for Metallica at Marlay Park in 2006. In recent years, they have opted to perform backed as a full band more often than not, so the acoustic nature was intriguing news for a die-hard Tenacious D fan such as myself, as well as the small (ish) venue. Their gig on Tuesday was one the penultimate one of their short December tour of Europe.
I had been left disappointed by their full band gig in the O2 last October. Having listened to a vast number of bootleg recordings of the band from the period between 1999 and 2002, I had loved how they, in this period, relied heavily on the relationship between Jack and Kyle and the interaction with each other and with the crowd to produce an entertaining show. They always had something new and interesting for those who already knew the songs, out of which they’d already wrung every last chuckle, whether it be covers or just a bit of improvisation in their established hits. Unfortunately, this incredible chemistry and stage presence had been absent during the O2 show from last year – Kyle seemed to marginalise himself, receding into the backing band, while Jack’s usually-hilarious improv was sparse. So, I was excited about this gig to say the least, hoping they would no longer be shackled by the large venue, the theatrics and the backing band and free to improvise as much as they want.
Consequently, when the night came, and the opening act, which I had heard suspiciously little about, turned out to be Sasquatch, I was thrilled. For those unaware, the belief in Sasquatch and his friendship with him is a major part of The D’s canon, and his electric guitar covers of classic rock songs featuring Yeti-themed lyrics was hilarious. But to the uninformed, perhaps a man in a bear costume playing drums with his hands and noodling around on guitar is far more bizarre than it is funny. He plods entertainingly through a set nonetheless, featuring song titles such as “Yeti for Love” (referencing Bad Company’s ‘Ready for Love’) and “You Don’t Need Shoes to Have a Soul”, closing, after a 30-minute set, with a goofy, short self-referential cover of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”.
After what appeared to be the easiest-possible night’s work for the stage techs, Jack and Kyle come onstage to massive reaction from the audience before strumming the opening chords of Kickapoo, the first track from their movie and album, “The Pick of Destiny”, following it up with tracks two and three from it, ‘Classico’ and ‘Baby’. Kyle then storms off stage during their usual mid-gig argument, somehow as entertaining as ever, only to relent as Jack sings ‘Dude, I Totally Miss You’ then ‘Kyle Quit the Band’.
The set is divided pretty evenly with tracks from each of their albums, and they include all of their most popular songs, but a disappointment for me is that they rarely reach into their wealth of excellent non-album tracks. The crowd don’t seem to agree, however, and hundreds of Irish voices back every word Jack sings. ‘The Cosmic Shame’ later in the night is their only foray into non-studio album territory, but amounts to a fairly tame and recycled rendition by its own standards. Nonetheless, it’s a strong set, packed with crowd-favourites, with the two comically bowing elaborately after each tune, and Sasquatch and roadie, John Spiker, run on stage at various amusingly choreographed points to provide hand-claps and minor backing vocals.
However, following each song and amusing bow, they simply retreat to the back of the stage, drink some water, towel off and talk amongst themselves before the next number. Kyle barely says a word to the crowd, and Jack is abnormally quiet too. The heart of their shows, that playful banter is gone, rendering it a far more sterile performance than it should be. How much this bothers you depends, I suppose, on how you want to classify Tenacious D – as a rock band, or as a comedy act. My preference was always towards the latter, but with the laughs removed from the set, essentially autobiographical songs like ‘The Ballad of Hollywood Jack and the Rage Kage’ and ‘39’ and not to mention the serious documentary accompanying their second live DVD which illustrated the effect on the band of the financial failure of their movie and bickering between the two, among other things… Well, it’s hard not to just call Tenacious D ‘just another rock band’. To be honest, I just don’t think they care enough any more.
But that said, it doesn’t make them boring. Most bands tend to lose the audience briefly in the middle as they load their best songs at the beginning and end, but for The D, the middle of the set is where it gets interesting. It consists mostly of songs from last year’s ‘Rize of the Fenix’ album, which we’re hearing acoustically for the first time, with ‘Senorita’, ‘Roadie’ and the cover of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Rock & Roll’ as a segue into a slow bluesy version of ‘Rock Is Dead’ all excellent. The greatest cheer of the night, however, is evoked with the first four notes of their classic ‘Tribute’, sung rapturously by the crowd. This leads into an extended version of ‘Double Team’ before their encore of ‘Wonderboy’ and ‘Fuck Her Gently’ send us gleefully into the night.
Review by Conor Cosgrave
Photos by Olga Kuzmenko