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WPGM Reviews: Tenacious D Live At First Direct Arena (In Pictures)

On a wonderfully warm and sunny Saturday in Leeds this May, the energetic duo Tenacious D brought their charismatic Spicy Meatball Tour to the First Direct Arena.

The comedy rock legends, formed in 1994, and with artistic endeavours across music, animation, games, movies and TV, performed an extensive selection from their back-catalogue, and from a time period spanning over 30 years.

Whilst the First Direct Arena crowd waited for their heroes Jack Black and Kyle Gass, they were warmed up by the eccentric stylings of support act Dave Hill.

A comedian, musician and radio / podcast host by trade, his mix of music and comedy had tinges of slapstick and awkwardness, incorporating local facts into much of his humour, and occasionally breaking into songs snippets which spanned various rock genres. Initially entering the stage on a BMX, and with an outfit reminiscent of Evil Kneival, his sometimes-polarising comedy won the audience over bit-by-bit, line-by-line.

His set was soon punctuated with an impromptu request for a recorder player, and with much excitement, he welcomed Kyle onto the stage… an indication of Mr Gass’ wind-instrument talent which would likely crop up again later in the show. The duo went on to perform a song or two, and Dave subsequently completed his set with some more guitar riffs, punchy humorous lines, and by riding off the stage the same way he arrived.

And so, after a brief pause in proceedings, the lights in the vast venue dropped, and the expectant masses knew The D were about to rock them out! Kyle entered first, strolling on with a confident yet relaxed stride, followed by Jack with an almost gleeful strut.

Once they combined, the party started, kicked off with the track “Kickapoo”, a meandering story of a song represents much of their work very well. The Ds show is just that, a show. Not just a collection of tracks played well (which it definitely is), but also entertainment in its truest form…including comedy set pieces, moments of acting and running story lines interlaced throughout all of the above.

Moving on through the set we got “Low Hanging Fruit”, “Rize of the Phoenix” and the equality story-centric “Wonderboy”, which was a slower paced palate cleanser before Jack and Kyle moved on to bucking the trend many bands fall into (which The D have the luxury of doing with their extensive list of hits for their fans), by playing arguable their most famous song (prior to a certain track from the recent Mario movie) “Tribute”.

Here the crowds singing, already loud and in unison, increased in volume seemingly tenfold. The sheer and tangible positive energy in the room was amplified as soon as the first few lines were sung… a truly memorable moment for those seeing the band for the first time, but also for those (like me) who’d been lucky enough to see them before.

After a stop along the way to play “Video Games”, the band opted to vehemently defend one of their favourite musical genres when they played “The Metal”, this time accompanied on stage by a full-sized robot, spending the song dodging, ducking and diving away from the threat whilst championing that “The Metal” had vanquished all other genres and survived!

As soon as this battle was concluded, another ensued. This time, Jack instigated matters by bringing on stage an instrument I believe he has single-handedly made world famous….the Saxaboom (A kids toy which plays a selection of pre-recorded music loops). Recreating his famous TV appearance with the same instrument, the audience erupted with smiles.

However, this was short lived when smiles turned to confusion as, plot twist… Kyle brought out the Sax Max! A larger-than-life version of the Saxaboom, one-upping Jack and feeding into the usual Tencious D storyline about the duos alter-egos always fighting (nothing would appear to be further from the truth in real life).

Next up was “Roadie”, a rather appropriate song to include considering prior to, and after this, one of the shows running jokes was some great physical comedy on Jacks part. Whenever support staff entered the stage, he would (off mic), pretend to argue with them, fake shouting and dramatically waving his arms in disgust, only to get on the mic and profess to the crowd that he had the best roadies in the game! The same joke repeated, but never got old.

Another set piece followed, a classic one many fans would have seen before, where Kyle and Jack fallout, and Kyle ‘leaves The D’… only for them to make-up during the song “Dude I Totally Miss You”. The newly reformed band then went on to perform their recent cover of “Wicked Game”, flanked by large screens showing the simple, hilarious, yet strangely beautiful video of both members slow motion running on the beach, through lapping waves, in nothing more than y-fronts. Again, the crowd roared with laughter whilst singing along with some great music.

Following this, the evil one himself was fought and banished during “Beelzeboss”, joined by a giant devil behind them, and some wonderful singing by the backing bands lead guitarist. Covering vocals on behalf of Dave Grohl is no mean feat, but he pulled it off!

The pre-encore section of the show was wrapped up with “Double Team”, a track which starts on a funkier level before descending into depravity, telling a tale of some hot-tub antics in full and imaginative detail…not a family friendly tune by any mean, but that was never on the cards.

Amongst all of these shenanigans, Kyle also revisited the aforementioned wind-instrument prowess by playing both the recorder AND flute at the same time, plus a rather impressive recorder solo. Neither instrument is particularly fashionable, but talent is talent and it was clearly demonstrated here! Another small but memorable moment for those in attendance.

Once The D had left and re-entered the stage for the encore, they stated with a bang by playing “The Who Medley”….a song playing tribute to absolute rock legends, Jack and Kyle excellently covered three of The Who’s top tracks whilst also giving them a Tenacious D twist that works perfectly.

“Master Exploder”, another song from their movie outing, was the penultimate full song of the night, followed by a short track created to commemorate the tour title, “The Spicy Meatball Song”, before lastly moving on the closing tune “FHG”.

Now this isn’t the actual title of the song, but were I to write it out in full, this review would need an 18 rating, so all I will say is that this is another fan favourite, it has similar themes to “Double Team”, but more direct in its adult language, and includes a glorious and triumphant crescendo which tore the roof off the First Direct Arena from the volume of singing from both The D and everyone in attendance.

I could go on and on about how good this show is, and that’s because it was. If you’ve listened to and liked any of Tenacious D’s songs over the years, this show is for you. If you have never listened to them… what have you been doing?! Go and seek them out….then find a show! I’ve said it before, but you won’t regret it!

The Spicy Meatball tour, initially kicking off in 2023, restarted in April of 2024, covering more of Europe, before it moves onto Australia and New Zealand in July.

Words and photos by Andrew Roast

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