In the United States funding for the arts has always been one of the first things to go in tough economic times as evidenced by the decline of the Harlem Renaissance. Now all artistic venues are having financial difficulties.
Actor’s Gang founder Tim Robbins was told that the theatre would have to be dark until January due to lack of funding, and two writing programs, one for students and another to combat recidivism in prisons, would have to go. His reply, “WTF?!” became the title of the new series of performances.
Tim’s terrific solution was to call on talented friends and former members of the Actor’s Gang to help. They didn’t just give money. They gave what they do best-Entertain. On Saturday night the stage in Culver City was far from dark filled with the brilliance of Tenacious D, the irreverent duo of Jack Black and Kyle Gass.
After spending some time at the bar in the open-air lounge area, the audience was ready to PARTY. Tim Robbins welcomed the capacity crowd and sang and played guitar with his brother, David Robbins. At Jack Black’s request they did a song from Tim’s political movie, Bob Roberts. Black appeared and apologized for stepping on the applause but announced that it was Tim’s birthday and brought a cake. Things got even better when the audience was invited to share the cake after the show.
It was definitely a Tenacious D crowd, but Sarah Silverman did a short set that answered the question shouted from the audience, “Why are you so cute?” After which “The D” as they are known burst onto the stage. Kyle Gass wore long Puma shorts, white socks and Puma sneakers, and Jack Black wore a tee shirt with a wolf howling at the moon, loose jeans and acid-green tennis shoes while playing matching, black guitars with white trim. Because it was a benefit and the tickets were expensive, Black thanked the crowd for the support.
“The Phoenix will rise again, ya’ll,” was Black’s call to arms and thus began the experience that is Tenacious D. As they proclaim, they are rock gods. In the midst of their hilarity, rapid-fire delivery of raunchy lyrics and zany stage antics these guys can play. They are perfect foils with Kyle’s cherubic countenance and guitar expertise and Black’s wild man, out-of control persona and vocal range. Jack referred to Gass as a musical genius. Black’s vocal range is immmpressive. Their playlist included a new song, “Deph Star”, with such crowd favorites as “Kickapoo” , and “Government Sucks” which was a hit when they campaigned for Obama.
On a serious note Kyle nodded as Jack made the statement that if we are going to fix the world it will take a quantum leap to save humanity. He urged government to set the artist free.
There were rock opera aspects to the concert as the duo portrayed kings who were rivals but agreed to toast with goblets of wine as a gesture of peace only to learn that each has poisoned the other’s wine. No subject is taboo including their second CD and movie, The Pick of Destiny whose budget was $20 million and only made 8 million in the U.S. and 13 million worldwide.
Black says, “ It bombed,” but then defiantly tells the audience, “You’ll have to laser off your “D” tattoo if “The D” is dead.
There was the obligatory moment when Kyle quits the band and walks off the stage, and Black’s acting skills came into play with a force. He recounts their meeting and forming “The D” and the great moments they have had together, but says , “Kyle did not bring his A game.”
Gass blamed it on the In-N-Out Double Double that he had before the show. Of course, they have a touching reunion to cheers from the audience. Black quoted the music business mantra, “As long as there’s a record deal we’ll always be friends.”
Tenacious D was formed in 1994 after Jack Black and Kyle Gass met in Scotland in 1989 as members of The Actor’s Gang in the play Carnage. It was animosity at first sight, but they combined their strengths—Black’s acting and vocal prowess and Gass’s musical skills. Black has been in High Fidelity, Nacho Libre, School of Rock, Shallow Hal and is the voice of Kung Foo Panda. Gass works on his individual music projects.
When the concert was over, there was a standing ovation, and “The D” returned with an encore of the fan favorite “Tribute”, but the crowd remained standing, applauding and demanding one more number and then one more. In addition to the excellent musicianship, razor-sharp lyrics and showmanship the concert was FUN!
Black set the bar high at the beginning when he stated, “The main thing we do is rock your socks off”, and there were only bare ankles left in the theatre at the end.