Rock review: Tenacious D, The Academy, Dublin
The degree to which Jack Black's tongue has been planted in his cheek through the life-span of his merrily ludicrous metal band is difficult to ascertain.
Too musically accomplished to be straight up hooted off stage, yet so scatological and in-jokey that they surely cannot expect to be taken at face value, Tenacious D inhabit a bleary territory between novelty act and cult affair.
Jack, backed by perpetually crestfallen best friend Kyle Gass, is unquestionably a serviceable songwriter, as this short acoustic set attests. On record, Tenacious D's music is cladded in a 14-year-old's idea of manly riffola, but , unplugged, they are obliged to stand before the audience in all their naked glory. Luckily, nothing unpleasant is on show and it is obvious that, whatever else, Black and Gass are serious about the craft of music -- the jokes are mostly applied afterwards, like a layer of comedy wallpaper.
That said, Black's star power is unquestionably key to their appeal. In the mid-scale Academy, it seems almost surreal that this very famous actor should be so close and his proximity creates a slightly hysterical atmosphere. In the normal order, the performer wants us to like them. Here, you wonder if it isn't the other way around. After he tosses a (used) towel into the crowd, the scramble to lay hands on the sweat-covered keepsake is extraordinary.
Tenacious D's 2012 arena tour was over the top, almost to fault. It featured an inflatable bird resembling part of the male anatomy (can you guess which? ) and a confetti cannon put to the sort of r-rated use that only a four-sheets to the wind frat party attendee would consider amusing.
There are no such adornments tonight, merely Black's Hollywood charisma and Gass' rumpled stoicism (how is it possible to be in a chart topping rock band and appear so beaten down by life?). The songs are, without fail, silly, earnest and rude, though the humour requires some buy-in on the listener's behalf. There's a whiff of pantomime also, with Gass pretending to walk out on the band and Black stomping back stage, wondering where he is gone.
Amidst all the silliness -- a backing singer dressed as a yeti feels inevitable rather than surprising -- the duo's talents occasionally glimmer. Black can knock out a respectable Led Zeppelin pastiche, delivered in a faux-grandiose vocal style, while Gass is a decent player, his deft chords often holding the gig together.
It remains unclear whether Tenacious D are a real band or a bored movie star's idea of one, but, with just two guitars and an adoring room at their disposal, they deliver.