|The Philadelphia Inquirer
By Ken Tucker:
The most controversial -- and most popular -- act in current popular music, the Beastie Boys, performed last night at the Spectrum. For the last three weeks, this trio's debut album, Licensed to Ill (Def Jam/Columbia), has been the No. 1 record in the country, and the album's raucous, mock-furious single, "You Gotta Fight for Your Right (to Party)," an unofficial national anthem among the predominantly teenage audience it amuses.
The Beastie Boys' claim to stylistic originality lies in the fact that they have managed to combine the terse staccato prosody of rap music with the harsh jangle of punk rock. And, oh, yes, they also have a penchant for succinctly phrased vulgarity that frequently sounds like a Richard Pryor nightclub routine as filtered through the mind of Dennis the Menace. The Beasties may be brats on a rampage, but they're often brilliant brats; they turn the sophomoric into a form of wit.
At the Spectrum, the Beastie Boys -- King Ad-Rock (Adam Horovitz), Mike D (Mike Diamond) and MCA (Adam Yauch) -- capered around the stage in T-shirts, jeans and high-top sneakers, shaking cans of beer and letting their contents spray across that part of the audience that crowded the front of the stage. Behind them, a collaborator named DJ Hurricane played taped music and "scratched" records to provide the rough beat; across the stage from him, a young woman danced frantically inside a silver cage.
The Beastie Boys' performance lasted barely an hour. At this point in their career, they don't have much material, just the compositions from Licensed to Ill and a few singles such as "Cookie Puss." But the trio managed to deliver such first-rate songs as "Hold It, Now Hit It" and "The New Style" with an aplomb that must be difficult to develop when you're hopping around the stage and rolling on the floor as a way of communicating with your audience.
These aren't addled animals set loose. When public pressure was put on the Boys to tone down their act in Washington on Sunday, they did. By all reports, they spoke with a minimum of obscenity and even dispensed with the 8-foot- tall phallus that brings the show to a conclusion during "You Gotta Fight for Your Right (to Party)."
It's too bad that the Beastie Boys caved in to such prissy pressure. Anyone who thinks the group's audience is being corrupted has only to look at the grinning faces in a Beastie Boys crowd to realize that the fans know it's all a joke, a good risque one. And I'm pleased to report that no such censorship was in evidence at the Spectrum. Philadelphia received a prime Beastie performance, stage props and all.
The Beastie Boys had two opening acts. One of them, Murphy's Law, is a New York outfit that makes raw punk music with a humorous edge. The group has been around for a few years, but this was the first time I ever saw its members acting like junior Beasties.
There also was Public Enemy, a rap group that comes on aggressively surly: Two "guards" pointing guns at the audience flank the rappers - not an amusing gesture. Public Enemy's performance evinced little of the cleverness of its new debut album, Yo! Bum Rush the Show (Def Jam/Columbia).