Like a giant float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the bird hovered behind the band, its wingspan massive, its neck stiff, its eyes menacing, its color ever-changing. The avian inflatable, which is really more phallic than mythic, is the mascot of the comedic metal-rockers Tenacious D, who kicked off their world tour last week at the Santa Barbara Bowl.
The adoring crowd chanted “D, D, D” as bandmembers Jack Black and Kyle Gass took the stage. Poster boys for unfit America, Black and Gass looked anything but rock stars in their baggy T-shirts and tennis shoes. Still, the two brought the house down — with help from a stellar backing band that included John Konesky on guitar, Brooks Wackerman on drums, and John Spiker on bass.
“This is our first show of our world tour,” Black said. “You are the chosen. And together we shall forge an army, and we shall do battle with the KISS band, and we shall beat them with … our rock.” The fellas opened with the title track from Rize of the Fenix, followed by five more cuts from this new album, including the foot-stomping “Low Hangin’ Fruit,” the ode to the crew “Roadie,” and the head-banging “Deth Starr.”
It would be easy to dismiss Tenacious D as a mock band in the same vein as Spinal Tap, but to do so would be to ignore that fact that Gass and Black are good musicians; Black’s vocal leaps are epic and Gass pulls off metal riffs on an acoustic. Yes, they use their talent with a wink toward arrested adolescence, but there is no denying that they write catchy tunes. And the masses agree: Rize of the Fenix hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts last week.