The New York Times
May 25, 1992
Beastie Boys: Rebellion Continues
By PETER WATROUS
The big musical genres to arrive as commercial forces in the 1980's, punk and its various subgroups and rap, have been amazingly limited in live performance. Money hasn't really been spent on shows to make them visually sophisticated, but more importantly, groups haven't been able to figure out a way to seem expansive. The music was exclusionary, either intentionally or not: those who didn't like that one sound weren't welcome. Whatever their values, punk was limited by its anti-professionalism, and rap was limited by its canned quality, by the lack of onstage musicianship.
The Beastie Boys' show at Roseland on Saturday night mixed rock and funk played by the band with rap from turntables. In its own wildly sloppy way, the choices the band made seemed both democratic and logical. Democratic because it was inclusionary both racially and musically, and logical because in the use of real instruments, the band had found a way through the problems offered by the genres. The result was one of the more exciting shows of the year, even if the band rambled, even if the words were unintelligible and even if the show was uncomfortably packed. By the end of the concert, the band had played and done just about everything that post-punk and rap can do.
The band is touring on the strength of its new album, Check Your Head, (Capitol) which cracked, for a moment, the top 10 of Billboard's charts on its first appearance several weeks ago. The Beastie Boys made a reputation in 1986 on Licensed to Ill, their first album and rap's first No. 1 record, as rap's white brats, clearly working out middle-class white youth rebellion, taking on a black subculture's forms of dress, speech and music. Previous shows were more about being part of a bratfest -- the group had women dancing in cages, and spent a good part of their time spitting beer at the audience -- than about music, and pop culture references abounded. Funny and topical, the band brought together as many pop culture icons as possible, and let them fester together.
But there has been a change, and on Check Your Head the band went back to its instruments, producing a record that though loaded with bratisms, was also musical, mixing tapes with real musicianship and an obvious love for the groove. If anyone needed an indication of where underground-tinged pop music was going in the 1990's, there it was.
At Roseland, the band -- Ad-Rock (Adam Horovitz), MCA (Adam Yauch), Mike D (Michael Diamond) -- did much of the material from Check Your Head, helped along with Money Mark on keyboards, Mario Coldato on percussion and D.J. Hurricane on turntables. Long instrumental sections, recalling the Meters and Booker T and the M.G.'s, stretched out into immensely pleasurable grooves that had the audience going wild. Filtered through a punk esthetic, the grooves were hard, and, oddly, since the group has never seemed serious about anything, the band took some pride pulling the music off, as if quality and ability suddenly counted, a direct contradiction of punk's central tenets.
At times the three members of the band dropped their instruments to rap over D.J. Hurricane's turntables, moving from songs on Licensed to Ill through songs from its second album, Paul's Boutique, with huge bass lines thumping away while the three Beasties ran around onstage or climbed the speakers shouting lines like "Go AWOL." Where the live music had been sludgelike but vital, the rap sections had a rhythmic precision; the three rappers, trading lines, rapping together, had the audience pulsating.
And the band knows its audience. Most rap groups call out New York sections like Brooklyn, the Bronx or uptown to get a response; the Beastie Boys called out the Village and Brooklyn Heights. It was an audience of pop culture cognoscenti, singing along with the raps, enjoying the funk and slam-dancing to the hardcore rock. It's the new bohemia, and the Beastie Boys are one of its heros.
The Hollywood Reporter
May 26, 1992
The Beastie Boys
Roseland Saturday, May 23
By Daina Darzin
NEW YORK--The Beastie Boys want to be taken seriously these days, returning real instruments to their set and offering a diverse and wildly inventive collection of new material. But the group's non-stop energy is still its strongest suit in concert. The rappers came to prominence in 1986, leading a nation of drunk frat boys with the anthem, "Fight for Your Right (to Party)." Licensed to Ill became the fastest-selling debut album in CBS history; buoyed by an opening slot on Madonna's Like a Virgin tour, sales ultimately topped 5 million. 1989's Paul's Boutique (Capitol) featured a more sophisticated, sample-laden approach to rap, and, despite critical acclaim, only went gold.
Still, the Beastie Boys seem determined to continue changing and progressing musically, pointedly omitting their biggest hit, "Fight for Your Right," from their hour-plus Roseland set. The focus was on their new disc, Check Your Head, which combines rap with metal and soulful, almost jazzy grooves, as well as returning to the Beasties' original, hardcore punk roots on some cuts.
The set was divided into segments of plain rap, complex, sample-heavy rap and hardcore punk, including a Minor Threat cover, "Stand Up." Most interesting musically was an instrumental subset that included "Groove Holmes" and "Lighten Up" from the new album. Combining ferocious world-beat percussion, a wash of acidy, Phantom-of-the-Opera keyboards courtesy of the very talented Money Mark (who also sang on several tunes), and a funkified, engaging groove, this approach could garner the Beastie Boys a whole new audience. Unfortunately, these cuts were the least enthusiastically received by their current fans. The sold-out house of hyper, sweating teenagers responded best to simple, high-energy rap tunes like "Shake Your Rump" and "Rhymin' & Stealin'," during which Mike D. and Ad-Rock bounced furiously around the stage, while MCA clambered on top of the amps.
Rap-rockers Basehead and punkers Firehose opened the show.