After 20-some odd years reigning as hip-hop’s most funktastic white guys from New York, the Beastie Boys have whetted their live performances into a finely tuned display of showmanship that weaves seamlessly in and out of the many epochs of their discography. Recently, the Beasties have taken a break from their usual party anthems to release The Mix-Up-an entirely instrumental album that explores the group’s post-punk, jazz, bossa nova, and dub influences. Curiously, the Boys’ performance at the Bowl last Thursday seemed to neglect their laundry list of classics for these instrumental stylings, raising the question: are the Beasties outgrowing their party-hardy lifestyle?
Constantly remixing and revising themselves, Michael “Mike D” Diamond, Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz, and Adam “MCA” Yauch flow like water onstage. Under the all-powerful hand of Mix Master Mike, the beats that made up Thursday night’s set would often stop on a dime, allowing the three a quick respite to poke fun at MCA’s sleek maroon sailor suit, blame each other for a mistake, or simply break out in an improvised a capella harmony.
In a way, the Beastie Boys perform almost in skits, as they each vacillate between instruments and mikes. There was a clear divide between the instrumental and the lyrical material, the former of which the trio seemed personally more absorbed in. Naturally, seeing classics like “Sure Shot” and “Brass Monkey” come to life on stage will create quite the party, but the most interesting minutes of the night were the lights-out, shades-drawn multi-instrumentalism of Mix-Up selections like “B for my Name,” “14th Street Break,” and “Dramastically Different.”
Not ones to neglect their past, the microphone fiends also took time out to pay homage to their hardcore punk roots with several old school tracks that inspired some heavy moments in the mosh-pit. “So Watcha Want” was quick to pick up the momentum, topped only by the epic arena ballad “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn.” The Boys left the crowd with “Check It Out”-the reckless single off 2004’s To the Five Boroughs-before fleeing the stage as Mix Master Mike performed a daring, beat-juggling turntable solo.
The Beasties returned to the deafening “Intergalactic” before going instrumental one last time and dishing out more from their latest release. It seemed all would end on a quiet note until “Sabotage” flipped the place over. And when the three fled the scene-leaving behind echoing cries of “Oh my god, it’s a mirage / I’m telling y’all it’s sabotage!”-they proved that, even after 20 years, the Beasties remain amazing, talented, and shockingly forward-thinking musicians.