Las Vegas Review Journal, October 25, 2006
By Jason Bracelin:
Clad in shiny suits, dancing with fists clenched, elbows high in the air, they looked like a group of insurance salesmen who stumbled into karaoke night at the local discotheque. And they sounded like a bunch of pencil pushers, too, dropping rhymes with more arcane references than a Dennis Miller monologue.
A half-an-hour into their jam-packed show at The Joint on Monday night, the Beastie Boys had already name checked forgotten '70s soul acts (Rose Royce), Dutch pancakes (pannenkoeken) old-school sitcom janitors (Schneider from "One Day At a Time") and, uh, Kenny Rogers, who's not very obscure, though one could hope. It's this kitchen-sink approach to hip-hop that's long defined the Beasties, who've made a career out of finding the shared traits in seemingly disparate sounds. The group's skilled at making a two-minute, curled-lip punk tantrum sound right at home next to a cowbell-driven funk work-out or a old fashioned battle rap.
Live, the group is even more scattershot, with its DJ, Mixmaster Mike, keeping the Beasties on their toes by remixing some of their tunes on the spot as the group races through them. At The Joint, Mixmaster Mike fused the Beasties' "Sure Shot" with the roaring horns from Kool and the Gang's "Hollywood Swinging," resulting in an even more breathless jam, and he frequently pulled the beat back, letting the group rhyme a capella before jumping back into the song.
It all highlighted the Beasties' manic, off-the-cuff appeal, which manifests itself in lots of clipped rhymes, instrumental tangents and seemingly incongruous mish-mashes that somehow work together. On "Pass the Mic," the Beasties rapped over a sprightly flute loop paired with crunchy metal riffs; before tearing into the fuzzed-out snarl of "Gratitude," MC/bassist MCA riffed on Black Sabbath's "Sweet Leaf" and Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water."
On this night, the band had no new album or material to promote--the show was a warm-up gig for a short run of South American dates--and so they tinkered with their catalog until it sounded a bit more fresh, sitting on stools at the lip of the stage and letting the crowd carry "Paul Revere" and stripping "Time to Get Ill" down until it was all muscle and sinew.
The Beasties did it all with the ceaseless energy of kids at recess, bounding about the stage, running laps around each other, wearing bright smiles beneath their dark shades. The crowd responded in kind, as this night was an exercise in dancing in confined spaces--can't remember the last time we saw so many white dudes doing the robot--and practically everyone in the house wore at least some of their neighbor's beer, which was spilled liberally.
It all ended in a fittingly raucous climax, with the Beasties strapping on their instruments for a pair of tunes, culminating with one of the band's biggest -- and most unlikely -- hits, the yowling "Sabotage," where MC/guitarist Ad Rock leaned into his instrument hard and wailed like he was back at a CBGB's hard-core matinee show.
"The original nasal kid is doing damage," Ad Rock had rhymed earlier on "Root Down," and this was him fulfilling his promise.