Pop music: Shout, shout, let it all out

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The Independent Culture
THE BEASTIE BOYS are something of an acquired taste. If you were weaned on the mellifluous tones of say, LL Cool J or Hiphoprisy's Michael Franti, the Beasties will be about as enjoyable as a mouthful of Roquefort when you're accustomed to the odd bit of Cheddar. Their trademark beery, shouty vocals range from high-pitched to downright squeaky, while their hellraising rap espouses hard partying as opposed to the gangsta politics of their contemporaries.

The delinquent trio - Ad Rock, MCA and Mike D - made middle England shudder with dread during the Eighties. The hormone-driven brat-rap of their 1985 debut License to Ill - containing that rumbustious teenage anthem "Fight for your Right to Party" - prompted parents to lock up their daughters and chase the perpetrators back to New York.

Thirteen years on, they are still a force to be reckoned with. Licensed To Ill became one of the fastest-selling debut albums ever and, four albums on, they are now leading lights of the white-boy hip hop fraternity. They also run their own record label, produce their own magazine, do their own line in clothing and have embraced Buddhism.

But despite this rather incongruous spiritual and commercial status, they haven't lost any of their juvenile sparkle. As the syncopated thud of "Sure Shot" grips the auditorium, Mike D prances on to the stage dressed as the Caped Crusader and his cohorts run around in Day-glo boilersuits. They leap, strut, and stomp about the stage, screaming their delinquent diatribe with larynx-lacerating force. Most impressive of all is the crowd's ability to sing along - if you've ever read their lyrics, you'll know what I mean.

Overlaid with muscular rhythms and sprawling samples, their riot-inducing rumpus runs rings around funk, punk, jazz and rap, and they show uncharacteristic precision in bouncing from one genre to the next.

After a rather overlong period of scratchy, shouty numbers, they suddenly switch into "Shaft" mode. Assuming the session musician's demeanour of staring dolefully into the middle distance, they embark upon some exquisite jazzy instrumentals, complete with Hammond organ, double bass and Blue Peter percussion. It is this side of the Beasties that makes one wonder why anyone thought they were evil.

But then they remind us, abruptly deciding to wake everyone up with an ear-crunching punk thrash number. The delightfully sadistic sentiments of "Heart Attack Man" makes it hard to believe that Adam Yauch (aka MCA) could even possibly be a Buddhist.

The crowd, all seemingly trying to outdo one another with the baggiest trousers, are also extraordinarily adept at switching personas. One minute they are beating each other to a pulp in the mosh pit, the next they are rolling back on their heels and passing round the spliffs.

After an excellent support slot, Money Mark continues to steal the show, with his slick Mr Sulu hairdo and cheeky grin. Despite his reputation as being the most reserved of the Beastie's part-timers, he seems constantly on the brink of hysterical laughter. As they encore with their guitar- driven homage to Starsky and Hutch, "Sabotage", he leaps back and forth over his keyboard, while still miraculously managing to play it. The crowd reaches new heights of madness as a sweaty fan takes a look at my notebook and vows he will hunt me down and punch my lights out if I don't write something nice. I thank my lucky stars that they've put on a good show, but his rather unsavoury attitude doesn't quite fit in with the Beastie philosophy. There is nothing antagonistic about them, but then there never really was.

The Beastie Boys' new album `Hello Nasty' is out on 6 July (Grand Royal / Capitol)


What The Punters Thought Of The Beastie Boys

Andrew Fox, 25, web designer, London

"They are fantastic. It's one of the best gigs I have seen in a long time because I know them so well and dearly love them and they make perfect sense. It is total, chaotic, party music. If I didn't know The Beastie Boys, I would be lost, but for someone who likes them, it was brilliant. They did a lot of punk stuff which made everyone mosh and I haven't moshed since I was a student. I regressed, which was a big deal for me but probably not something I would talk about at dinner parties."

Anna Brooks, 18, student, London

"I found some of it confusing. It was so mad on stage and there was a lot of pushing and shoving going down on the floor so that it was really difficult not to get caught up in it all. Next time I see them I'll get right up to the front. Some of my friends did and I think they must have collapsed somewhere!"

Matt Fisher, 29, band manager, London

"Fantastic. Raw rock and roll, stop and start. The whole vibe was brilliant, they controlled it perfectly, from indulgent funk jazz tracks to three- minute thrash punk songs that they are so renowned for. It was a superb show. There was a really bare stage, really minimal. It's what it's about really and that's my bottom line on the Beastie Boys. Awesome."

Alejandra Obregon, 24, editor, Columbia

"I really enjoyed it, I like Money Mark a lot. It was great, but very much a Beastie Boys crowd rather than a crowd for Money Mark. The Beastie Boys were just like boys. It was a very good end to the concert with "Sabotage".