Live Music + Gig Reviews

The Beastie Boys @ ICA, London

15 May 2004

Hey, it’s about time we had a Pop Quiz!


Is the answer:
a) Time To Get Ill?
b) About 20 past 10?
c) About now and a bit before?
d) Time for Horlicks, Heartbeat, and beddy-byes?

(You’ll find the answer at the bottom of the page)

I’m not sure what happened, but I waited until way after the sweaty curtain-call, and I still didn’t see any Beastie Boys. With too much grey to be called even the Beastie Blokes any more, three middle-aged men named Mike D, MCA, and Ad Rock fair set out to rock three separate mics in lieu of a UK tour.

Specially recorded for Zane Lowe’s BBC Radio 1 show, ICA’s shoebox venue was packed to the rafters with a contingent straight outta Soho. Cue plenty of middle-youth ad agency types nodding their pates in time to the sc-sc-sc-scratchin’ of Mixmaster Mike. Still, I’m here so it can’t be all bad.

Though the Beastie Chaps might be more likely to be checkin’ their loose-fits at Dunn & Co rather than Paul’s Boutique these days, they are still seen as a going concern by the hipnoscenti. It’s been a journey of Damascene proportions since the crazy daze and hardcore nites of Daily Mirror headlines, girls in cages and blatant trouser-snake symbolism, but since their first ill communication, the Beastie Gentlemen have enjoyed an unlikely longevity.

The sampladelic dee-lite of their second album, buoyed by the rhythm-savvy production of The Dust Brothers, remains a tour de force of hip-hop’s great referential period of the late ’80s. By the time Check Your Head surfaced, the Beastie New Men had (hey, presto!) revealed they had been kidding all along. They were never just ratty-voiced rich-ish kids gone bad. They were, in fact, musicians. Oh, yes. And so determined were they went on to prove their muso credentials, that they went all jazzbo with The In Sound From Way Out.

Yet it was the Japanese Monster-Movie fetishism of Intergalactic that nailed the current perception of the Beastie Dudes in the popular consciousness – that of Devo-ish merry rap pranksters, more wacky than wack.

But this evening The Beastie Geezas are in civvies. There’s a fair amount of Rat Pack-style banter pouring forth from those Noo Yoik faces but they resemble less Frankie’s boyz than a Bilko cast reunion, with a game Phil Silvers on the decks getting all the best lines.

MCA and Ad Rock are cocking a whiny snoop at the Grecian 2000. Ad Rock’s bemused gurn entertains, but MCA has the embarrassed air of a man who’s gate-crashed his 16-year old’s coming out party. Maybe he should have stayed home with the Beastie Babies. Mike D has relief-map lines across his mug, but he’s a wiry mutha, and is just about the liveliest of the three.

Shambolic this virtual rehearsal may have been, but the Beastie beats remain irresistible. The opener Root Down united a roomful of tootsies in motion, and if, on the radio at least, new single Ch-Ch-Check It Out seems only to echo past glories, you wouldn’t know it by the crowd’s fevered reaction. But judging by some of the confused timings, it’s been a while since some of these raps were taken out for a public shouting. It’s an agreeable chaos, and the 50 minutes of performance time allows little time for unsightly filler. The Beastie Brian’s (okay, I ran out of similes) are even sweet enough to resurrect Time To Get Ill, and encore with an all-conquering Intergalactic.

What time is it? Well, judging by how knackered the Breathless Boys looked at the finale, I’d say the answer to the quiz was a resounding ‘D’. Certainly before ‘A’ happens. There’s plenty of gym time before the tour though, so its important to remember that these Bygone Boys were already droppin’ science when Eminem was swervin’ mornin’ assembly.

buy The Beastie Boys MP3s or CDs
Spotify The Beastie Boys on Spotify

More on The Beastie Boys
The Beastie Boys @ ICA, London