Concert Review: Tenacious D at Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom (7/7/12)

I still remember my first encounter with Tenacious D.  It was 2001, I was 17 years old and a senior in high school.  My dad had joined a CD club for some reason (holy shit, remember CD clubs?), and after he picked out a bunch of stuff for himself, he had one or two spots left over for me, to get to his 15 Free CDs or whatever it was at the time.  Never having heard of Tenacious D, or even knowing that Jack Black was in the band, I ordered the debut CD on a whim based off the fact that nothing else in the order brochure seemed even remotely worthy to my awful teenage taste in music.  Flash forward to when the CD arrived in the mail.  I listened to it twice all the way through the first night I had it.  Probably listened to it all the way through the next night too.  And again that weekend.  And again two dozen more times before I would get my high school diploma.  And it kept staying funny/awesome all through college.  I would annoyingly quote the entire Drive-Thru sketch word-for-word.  It was pretty much a perfect album.  Then I sought out their HBO show.  Then I started downloading bootleg live tracks.  I don’t know where it is now, but somewhere in my parents house is the Official Tenacious D Cum Rag, unicorn and all.  I went to Pick of Destiny opening weekend in theaters (I LIKED IT), and in a time of digital downloads, I still ordered the Deluxe CD version of the Pick of Destiny soundtrack, which came with a bonus T-shirt, Tarot cards, and a replica Satan pick.  I may have given their latest album a lukewarm review, but it has plenty of moments of greatness, here and there.  I liked it more than I disliked it.  One thing I had never done in all my years of D fandom, though, was see them live.  Until this past weekend…

One thing worth noting before I get to the actual show review; is the rest of the audience.  Having never been to a Tenacious D show, nor interacted with any D fans outside of my group of friends, I quickly realized how douchey their fanbase really is.  I shouldn’t be surprised, though, given a lot of the content of their songs.  It’s comedy rock, but it’s also stoner rock.  But the people who came to see the show aren’t like the eco-friendly, outdoorsy type of stoners; they’re the college level, fat, “get high while watching Adult Swim” type of stoners.  The unproductive kind of stoners.  For every one person who admires the tongue-in-cheek mythical bravado of The D, there are 20 more people who are just there to laugh at the weed jokes.  The girl standing right behind me said, out loud, “I am so high on this weed right now!  Huhuhuhuhuh”.  When I turned around she was wearing a hemp-looking sundress, a Bob Marley shirt, and had the glossed over smiling face of a mentally retarded person.  It’s like she came right out of an 80-year-old conservative man’s stereotype of what a pot smoking girl should look like.  In fact, it’s almost like I time traveled to Southern Illinois University via 2004, right in the middle of my stay in college.  Not since then have I seen such a condensed gathering of ugly people with dreadlocks and Grateful Dead tie-dye t-shirts still muttering phrases out loud along the lines of “I’m gonna toke up so hard in this bitch” or “Wouldn’t it be righteous if JB busted out a fat bowl right in the middle of the set?  huhuhuhuhuh.”  I forgot that these kind of people even existed, now that I’ve been part of the grown up world for 6 years or so.  I’m all for legalizing marijuana (for many reasons), but the dreadlocked hippie guy who just mentioned “4:20″ makes me wish it would stay illegal just out of spite.  We get it, you smoke weed.  You don’t have to say out loud that you smoke weed.  The fact that your shirt has black light felt on it is indication enough that you smoke weed.  I don’t think you’re any cooler because you do the illegal thing that almost everybody else has also done.  So, shut the fuck up, you annoying dolt.

One thing I’ve always wondered, though, is when you’re in your group of friends and you’re like the ONE stoner guy with the dreadlocks, and the hemp necklace, and the tie-dye t-shirts, and that’s kind of your “cool” look among your friends…   And then you go to a concert like this and you see 100 other people who also have dreadlocks and are wearing tie-dye t-shirts…  Do you get a warm feeling inside that you’re fitting in in the world, like you’re among your people…?  …Or does it feel like you’re a tool who has conformed to the stereotypical look of every other stoner douchebag who took the attitude too far…?  “Whoa…  that’s what I look like…?”  Or are you just so high you think a bunch of spiritual copies of yourself are walking around the concert?  …Probably the last one.

ANYWAY…  (sorry)  The opening act was Urge Overkill.  They were alright.  Not bad by any means, but nothing memorable.  They were kinda generic rock music, and all their songs sounded the same after a while (except for “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon”, the song they covered for Pulp Fiction back when they were prominent).  They also played too long.  They played for like an hour, and the Aragon was hot and swampy as balls, so I got kinda restless of their time on stage after a while.  The doors opened at 7:30, and the D didn’t begin their set until a little after 9 pm.

But when they came on it was well worth it.  Entering the stage draped in long flowing white robes with flashing LEDs, they had immediately made me forget the boiling hot hour and a half before it, and also forget most of the mouth breathers standing behind us (we managed to get front row, stage right, up against the barrier).  Their first six songs were all off their new album.  Despite my attitude towards that album in general, the songs were still fun when performed live.  Even a song I didn’t particularly like at all, like “Low Hangin Fruit” was still rather fun to see live.  Other highlights they played from the new album were “Roadie”, “Throwdown” and “Deth Starr”, the last of which featured JB fighting a giant space monster with a NERF gun (the same NERF gun I own!  It’s an awesome gun!).

Space alien battle!

VICTORY!

After the first song, Jaybles was sweating from head to toe, and jokingly said “Fuck, it’s hot in here, let’s call it a night!”  followed by “HA!  No one’s goin’ anywhere, we haven’t even begun to sweat!”.  Periodically throughout the set, when he noticed the audience was particularly sweaty, he would throw a bottle of water into the crowd and say “Just take a lick and pass it on.  There’s not enough for everyone to take a sip, so just take a lick.  Don’t you go keeping that bottle and passing it off as Official Tenacious D Water…!”  The heat was pretty unbearable.  I’ve never been in the Aragon Ballroom before, but it didn’t make a good first impression.  To the band’s credit; no matter how hot it was, they didn’t let it affect the energy of the show.

After the new material got played to start the show, it never came back.  Well, unless you count a sampling of The D’s 4th album, an experimental jazz album called Jazz, due out by 2015.  “If you can’t evolve with The D’s sound, then you shouldn’t fucking be here to begin with!” shouts Jack Black.  Then out came the Saxaboom!

SAXABOOM

The rest of the set was classic Tenacious D, and it was a fucking dream concert.  They started with “Kielbasa” and then moved into “Kickapoo”, with KG filling in the Meat Loaf vocals.  After the song, sadly, a dispute forced KG to quit the band.  Jaybles couldn’t have been more sad, and fought his way through singing the heartbreaking ballad “Dude I Totally Miss You”.  Luckily Kage came back on stage, and power hugged it out with Jack.  “A few minutes ago, Kyle quite the band…  It doesn’t matter now we’re back together again, LALA LA LA LAA LA.”  The crowd all sang along to “Friendship” shortly after.

After performing “The Metal” (a song I’m not the biggest fan of, but was awesome live), Sasquatch showed up and knocked the backup guitarist out and stole his guitar.  After shredding out for a minute, JB ordered him dead by NERF rocket.  But when the guitarist woke up, it was already too late, he was possessed by Satan!  Hearing “Beezleboss” live was awesome, that’s the best song off Pick of Destiny, and moved into my top D songs pretty quick when that album came out.  Continuing the greatness, They performed a medley of The Who’s Tommy, who Jack complimented as the “second greatest live band of all time”.  To close the show out, they ended with a bang, blasting “Tribute” followed by “Double Team”.  In an extended outro of the final song, the two rock legends gave thanks to their backing band, granting them a few minutes each of solo time on stage, which was actually pretty awesome because they were very good at what they do.  Of course the last thank you went to Jack himself, as he granted the audience the privilege of hearing his golden voice on its own.  In the end, a giant inflatable phallic fenix from the cover of the new album shot jizz confetti all over the audience (I’m serious) to close out a show of rock, spectacle, and insanity.

They came back for an encore, it was just JB & KG (no backing band) and they did a quieter three songs.  Starting with “Baby” from Pick of Destiny, they moved into a cover of the Star Trek Theme Song, and ended on the highest of notes, belting out “Fuck Her Gently” with full audience participation.   Clap.  Clap.  Clap.

Noticeably missing from the set was “Wonderboy”, but I assume they’ve become sick of playing it over the years or something.  I was also expecting “Rock Your Socks”, but it never came.  It didn’t really matter, it was a great set, and well worth going to.  At one point KG ran over to where we were standing and just menacingly stared at our part of the audience for 15 seconds.  He made direct eye contact with me for but a moment, and it unwillingly supplied a hefty dose of cream in my jeans.  It’s just what they do.

Overall Concert Experience:  8 out of 10

Just Tenacious D’s Performance: 9.5 out of 10

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