REVIEW: Tenacious D rocks Walmart AMP

“The demon code prevents me, from declining the rock off challenge”: Kyle Gass (left) and Jack Black are no joke as mock rockers Tenacious D. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Jordan Mears)

Monday night marked the beginning of a series of poor decisions on my part. The first of these bad decisions was attending a concert. I traveled to Rogers to see a sold-out concert at the Walmart AMP, despite having to teach a class at UCA early next morning. My second poor decision was not checking the weather. I expected a warm summer night, so I dressed comfortably in shorts and a T-shirt, unaware rain was in the forecast.

My third mistake was not arriving early enough. I assumed since the show started at 8 o'clock, I would have plenty of time to find parking and get to my seat. Lastly, I decided to skip dinner, thinking I could grab a bite to eat at the AMP. With all these blunders and mishaps stacking up during the night, I have to say that I had one of the best times at any concert I've ever attended.

So, which band did I go see? It was none other than the legendary heavy metal band Tenacious D. For those of you unfamiliar with the D, they are a comedy rock duo consisting of comedic actors Jack Black and Kyle Gass. They describe their history as having "rode with kings and traversed space and time," but in reality, the duo formed the band in Los Angeles in the early '90s.

The foundation of the band was built around one initial joke: the fact that the duo could never write the greatest song in the world, but they could write a tribute. Inspired by the likes of Ronnie James Dio, Led Zeppelin and other metal bands, Tenacious D was born into the genre of mock rock. Although the band started as a joke, the real punchline is that the duo are rather competent musicians.

This was my first time attending an event at the AMP, a venue I had seen numerous times from the interstate. I had no idea just how poorly it was run until that night. As I exited into Rogers, cars were backed up to a stop on the interstate, creating a dangerous situation. Finding a parking space was virtually impossible, as the lots were about a half-mile walk from the front gate. It seemed like they had built the stage but forgot to consider the need for parking. Time was ticking away, with less than 30 minutes until showtime.

I rushed up to the front gate, only to be greeted by a chaotic line with no rhyme or reason, bottlenecked as people struggled to pull up digital tickets on their iPhones. By the time I got through the front gate, there were literally only two minutes until the music started. This meant no time for concessions or browsing the merchandise table. It was a miserable experience.

But the terrible night I was having was instantly washed away when Black and Gass took the stage. Black was sporting a T-shirt and shorts embroidered in red and yellow flames. He also had a massive gray beard, making him look like a short and stout Gandalf or a bloated Jerry Garcia. It was amazing how animated Black was, bouncing and dancing all over the stage like a live-action cartoon. No wonder he was covered in sweat three minutes into the show.

I described this earlier as a concert, but I don't think that's the best description.

A more fitting label for this show would be a modern vaudevillian act. Black and Gass are like a hard rock version of Abbott and Costello. There was equal focus on staged comedy as there was on the actual music. There were choreographed moves of sets, props and recurring characters. There was a giant black metal breakdancing robot, an inflatable Satan, and Biff, the world's worst pyrotechnician. There were several skits between the songs. At one point, Gass quit the band, only to rejoin seconds later. Black brought out an instrument called a sax-a-boom, which looked like a child's toy made by Fisher-Price. After a solo on the sax-a-boom, Gass brought out the max-a-boom, the same instrument, only 10 times larger. It was like a sketch from Looney Tunes. But the best moment of the night was when Gass accidentally called the Hogs, which I think befuddled and scared the two musicians.

Needless to say, it was a bizarre concert.

Right after the first song, the temperature dropped 20 degrees as rain began to fall from the heavens. A breeze started to sweep through the AMP, wafting in the all-too-familiar smell of ganja. By the time they reached their third song of the night, "Wonderboy," I was hit with the strangest wave of nostalgia. I had forgotten how big a part of my life Tenacious D was when I discovered them in high school, how I went to see the Tenacious D movie in college, and how the theater back then reeked of that same familiar smell of weed. But it was at this moment during the night when every single lyric from every one of their songs re-entered my brain. I subconsciously stood in the middle of the AMP singing along with 9,000 other fans to every juvenile, low-brow, profanity-laced song.

All of Tenacious' songs are fairly similar, at least from a lyrical standpoint. They're all gross-out, ejaculatory humor revolving around drugs, sex, rock 'n' roll, the devil and self-aggrandizing the importance and skill of the band. Despite the repetition, their songs are clever and catchy. They also highlight how good a guitar player Gass is and just how much vocal range Black has, especially when hitting high notes or spouting out unintelligible sounds. In the middle of their set, they belted out a shockingly beautiful rendition of Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game" before delving back into their trademark silliness.

By the end of the night, I was tired, cold, hungry and wet. I wasn't particularly looking forward to the 2½-hour drive home, nor was I excited about teaching 50 non-film majors the next morning about the history, artistry and intricacies of cinematography.

But I pulled up Tenacious D on Spotify, as I made my way through the rainy darkness, rocking hard along the way.