Review:It's back to school for the Beastie Boys

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Indy Lifestyle Online
WITH RUN DMC holding the spotlight once more and De La Soul waiting in the wings, hip hop now has a history of its own to consider instead of poncing off everyone else's. It's more than a little ironic, though, to see the original rap ingenues, the Beastie Boys, revered in some circles as one of the form's prime movers.

For more than two hours at Brixton Academy, the three white, male thirtynothings looned about before a couple of thousand almost exclusively white, mostly male twentysomethings doing much the same. You can't help feeling that if the suburban trendies who first catapulted the Boys to success hadn't grown up to colonise the style press, the threesome would be having a much harder time of it today.

That said, the absence of the old, school-disco floor-fillers "No Sleep til Brooklyn" and "Fight For Your Right (to Party)" failed to dampen down the frat house- party atmosphere; and it'd be wrong to conclude from their omission that Adam Yauch, Adam Horovitz and Michael Diamond have grown up much in the interim. Between the release of Licenced to Ill over 12 years ago and the forthcoming Hello Nasty, their fifth album, the Beastie Boys have always torn into new musical challenges like a 13-year-old knocking back his first lager top. "Paul's Boutique", "Check Your Head" and "Ill Communication" all bore witness to the boys' enthusiasm for hip hop, funk and punk, and are more enjoyable for their tumultuous breadth than any artistic depth.

Non-stop chaos live, however, is well out of order. The entrance of Mike D in a white boiler suit and a shower-curtain-cum-cape, with the two Adams and the rest of the backing group in orange outfits, we expected. The Rentokil of Rap? No problem. The triumph of sheer presence over the intrinsic merits of all but a handful of the show's songs was also par for the course. What did begin to grate was the show's restlessness.

Indisputable hip-hop winners like "Sure Shot" all too readily gave way to bursts of flailing hardcore and while each sent their respective constituencies in the audience into hysterical pogo-ing, it was left to the more reflective, jazzy moments, from Ill Communication, to repair shattered nerves. The group was badly served by a treacherous sound system, but they didn't do themselves any favours with what, at crucial moments, seemed like a suspiciously under-rehearsed gig. Boys will be boys.

When thin girls wearing fake tattoos rub shoulders at a gig with fat men sporting the real thing, you know something's afoot. Rocket From the Crypt are a San Diegan five-piece (six, including occasional singer Holly Golightly) whom David Lynch would be compelled to invent if they didn't already exist. In fact, their broad appeal is simple: thunderous sex'n'booze rock'n' roll sung by young men who look like they 've strayed off the set of The Wild Ones.

Earlier, five quiffs had taken to the stage, shortly followed by their owners, each of them clad in black satin bowling shirts. The Happy Days dress code, oddly enough, serves the band's earthy preoccupations well. The lyrics of the evening's opener, "When in Rome (Do the Jerk)", leave you in little doubt that the Carabinieri would take exception to RFTC's travel advice. But, as with their other testosterone stompers "Dick on a Dog" or "Young Livers", RFTC succeed precisely because they don't make any apologies for their high-school smut rock (even if all five look to be closing on 30). It helps too that the rest of the group draws its inspiration from lead singer Speedo, whose pronouncements on hedonism throughout the gig were nothing short of evangelical: imagine the works of Shaun Ryder recited by Jimmy Swaggart.

So beguiling were RFTC that you'd almost kid yourself that watching pop groups was all about having good, dirty fun. To remind you what the music business is really all about - self-parody, greed, egotism and a dash of violence - Ian Brown's turn in Portsmouth, the conclusion of his first solo tour, had to be seen to be believed. As an ex-Stone Rose, you'd have thought that Brown had had enough of keeping people hanging around. But, no, our Ian knew best and deigned to strut on stage an hour and 45 minutes late. Predictably enough, a hostile crowd let their empty glasses do the talking. "Got any sailors in tonight, have we?" came Brown's reply and, following frank exchanges between audience and singer on the North-South divide, a gig, of sorts, got under way.

Playing from his debut solo album, Unfinished Monkey Business (save for a cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing"), Brown did little to make you think that he has much of a future. It's not that his new material is especially disappointing - as John Squires has indulged his Led Zeppelin fantasies with the Sea Horses so Brown has fallen short of the Stone Roses' more melodic passages with his solo effort.

Rather, the mischievous intent of his album title and Brown's messianic histrionics with the Roses entitled you to expect a bit of cheek from the Mancunian. Thanks to his backing group, the hit single "My Star" is adequately moody, as is the restrained funk of "Can't See Me". As ever, Brown can barely carry a tune, but even his characteristic trippy jig, microphone aloft, has become a constipated shuffle.

The highlights, such as they were, involved the edifying sight of Brown pointing out troublemakers to the bouncers and his eccentric request that we all demand a refund to bankrupt the promoters who he believed had short-changed him. Not to mention the two punch-ups the audience staged to while away the time. Is it really only 10 years since the Summer of Love?

Nicholas Barber is away.

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